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Tri-State Reserve units wait for word

April 15, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

As members of the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W.Va., prepare to leave for Europe, reservists across the Tri-State area are preparing for the possibility that they, too, could be sent to the conflict in Yugoslavia.

The possibility grew stronger on Tuesday when Pentagon officials announced several thousand reservists likely would be needed in the fight against Serbian forces.

"I don't think we've panicked yet," said Vic Moon, unit administrator of the 1007th Maintenance Co. in Hagerstown.

The 1007th, Army Reserve unit, like other Reserve outfits in the area, has not been put on notice. Commanders said, however, being called to active duty is always a possibility.

Moon said reservists used to worry little about combat. In exchange for two weeks of training and one weekend each month, they got pay, retirement benefits and perhaps skills that translated into better-paying jobs in the private sector.

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The best part during the late 1970s and 1980s was that there was very little risk of having to go into battle.

"We used to never even talk about war. It was a good part-time job," Moon said. "You didn't have to worry about being called up. It basically had to be World War III."

But with military downsizing in the 1990s, that has changed, Moon said.

"Now the mission has changed with cutbacks. The regular Army can't perform all of the functions," he said.

Moon said the chances the 1007th will be called to active duty are low because it is not at full strength. There are about 120 members in the unit, which is authorized to have 215.

The unit, which recently was reorganized, is divided into platoons that repair vehicles, power generators and construction equipment, Moon said.

More likely, individual members of the unit may be pressed into service to fill out other units, Moon said.

That is also the case for another Army Reserve unit, the 309th Transportation Co. in Greencastle, Pa., said Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Wright, the unit's truckmaster.

Wright said the outfit, which has 34 members, is building toward an authorized level of 170.

The unit, which was activated about a year ago, hauls fuel.

The most likely candidates for action in the Balkans would be more reservists from the 167th Airlift Wing, which had about 466 members who served during the Gulf War.

"We have the latest avionics and aviation equipment. That, in itself, will probably push us toward the front," said Lt. Col. Roger Sencindiver, chief of staff for the unit. "And we've proven we're combat-ready."

Commanders of Reserve units said they could be called if the conflict expands.

"It's such a fluid situation that if the right units go through bullets, then you can imagine we'd be called," said Capt. William Johnson, of the 351st Ordnance Co.

The Army Reserve unit, based in Romney, W.Va., has a detachment in Martinsburg. The company's main job is to provide ammunition support to combat units. It was one of the first Reserve units called to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm.

As long as NATO rules out ground forces, Johnson said the chances that the unit will be sent to the Balkans remain low. But he said members of the unit are monitoring the situation closely.

"Experience has shown them what can happen in that situation," he said.

related story:

-- Members of 167th Air Wing are called up

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