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W.Va. troops prepare for duty

February 11, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Members of the 157th Military Police Co. in Martinsburg were called to service Monday, but whether they will receive a domestic or overseas assignment is not known, according to an Army National Guard official.

Maj. Ron Garton, public affairs officer for the Army National Guard in Charleston, W.Va., said all members of the 157th will be affected. For security reasons, Garton said he could not divulge an exact number of unit members in Martinsburg, but said it is around 100.

For the next few days, 157th members will stay at the local armory outside Martinsburg, getting themselves and their unit equipment ready for federal service.

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They will then head to a "mobilization station," which is usually an Army facility, for deployment in support of Operation Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom, Garton said.

Any additional training Guard members need for their assignment will be done at the mobilization station. Also for security reasons, Garton declined to reveal the mobilization station site.

Details on what the Guard members will do for this assignment were not known Monday, Garton said. Generally, military police members protect personnel and facilities.

Any 157th members now in training will join their unit later.

This is not the first time 157th Guard members have been called to federal service.

During the Gulf War, local members of the military police unit went to Saudi Arabia, and, most recently, returned from a security assignment at Fort Benning, Ga.

The latest assignment could last up to a year, according to mobilization paperwork, or even be extended by a presidential order.

Because the National Guard is a "dual-role" military organization, what unit members do depends on what's going on in the state and nation, according to Garton.

During peacetime, the governor acts as commander in chief of the Guard, calling members to service when needed for state disasters, like the flooding in southern West Virginia.

With the threat of war looming, the president calls Guard members to federal service, Garton said.

Ever since President Bush told the nation that anyone in uniform needed to be prepared to defend the nation, Garton said men and women in uniform in West Virginia have been ready.

"We knew that we'd play a part eventually, whether it was homeland efforts or overseas deployments," Garton said.

Along with those in Martinsburg, also included in the call to service were the members of the 157th Military Police Co. in Moundsville, W.Va., which is in the Northern Panhandle.

Overall in West Virginia, more than 1,000 members of the West Virginia National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve have been activated since Jan. 1.

Members of the National Guard's 1092nd Engineer Battalion were scheduled to head Monday to Fort Bragg, N.C., for further training and administrative processing.

About 511 members of the 1092nd will either serve overseas or as part of the homeland defense effort. The Parkersburg-based battalion also has companies and detachments in Gassaway, Moundsville, Richwood, Salem, Spencer and Weston.

Also Monday, members of the National Guard's 1863rd Transportation Co. were scheduled to head to Oak Hill in preparation for deployment today. They are to handle security operations for Air National Guard bases in Charleston and Martinsburg.

About 68 members of the 1863rd were called into active service last month for homeland defense efforts.

Gov. Bob Wise plans to visit the soldiers later this week.

"We are not surprised that more of our outstanding West Virginia National Guard soldiers have been called into active duty," Wise said.

Meanwhile, about 180 Army reservists from the 363rd Military Police Co. based in Grafton are expected to leave soon for their mobilization site at Fort Lee, N.J.

The 363rd provides area security, law and order operations, crime prevention and security of critical national resources.

Another 50 Army reservists with the Charleston-based 321st Ordnance Co. were expected to leave Monday evening for Fort Dix, N.J., where they will go through training and administrative processing then likely head overseas.

The battalion provides support to units within a theater of operations, including storage and distribution of ammunition at many locations.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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