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Wise visits MPs

Guard members will be deployed overseas

Guard members will be deployed overseas

February 13, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Crystal Utley has been dating her boyfriend for a few months, long enough for the emotion to be visible on her face Wednesday as she watched a prelude to his official military send-off.

Utley's boyfriend is Steve Salopek, a mechanic with the 157th Military Police Co. of the West Virginia Army National Guard. The unit is based in Martinsburg.

Wednesday's activities included a presentation by and well wishes from Gov. Bob Wise.

On Friday, the men and woman of the 157th will head to Fort Knox, Ky., where they will receive additional training for what ultimately will be an overseas mission. How long the mission will last is not known.

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Guard leaders declined to say where the unit will be going, and one Guardsman said even he did not know the unit's exact destination.

In the Guard's armory, women sat holding the hands of their boyfriends or husbands, while children ran around the building, playing.

"I'm scared of what's going to happen, and I'm going to miss him," said Utley, 19. "I'm going to try to write him every day."

Utley said she wished the Guard had given them the weekend, and shipped them off on Monday instead of Friday. Since they received official word on Monday that they had been activated, Guard members have been at the armory nearly nonstop, Utley said.

"They haven't really been able to spend time with their families," she said.

Inside the armory, the soldiers lined up at attention, an arms-width apart.

John Barnette, assistant adjutant general and commander of the West Virginia Army National Guard, told members of the 157th that they should be able to do four things: Perform a wartime mission; be physically, emotionally and mentally fit; join the team quickly and make their unit and nation proud.

Wise said he wants to make sure the soldiers focus on their mission and not worry about potential problems at home.

"We make a pledge to you ... as you go to take care of us, we will take care of your families," he told the unit members.

Commending the soldiers, some of whom served overseas in the Persian Gulf and most of whom recently returned from an assignment in Fort Benning, Ga., was important, he said.

"On behalf of the people of West Virginia, let me say thank you and Godspeed," he told the troops.

Wise ended his remarks by handing a flag to a uniformed soldier, asking that the 157th members take it with them and bring it back safely, along with all the men and women in the unit.

He then shook each Guard member's hand and, once they broke formation, posed for photographs.

Speaking afterward about the possibility that West Virginia soldiers could be injured or killed overseas, Wise said he knows of that potential.

But they go prepared, he said.

"They are some of the best trained, best motivated soldiers in the country," Wise said.

Staff Sgt. Ken Mauck, who works as a Berkeley County sheriff's deputy when he's not called for Guard duty, said the days leading up to deployment are the most difficult.

"Once you get set up and start doing your mission, it flows," he said.

Mauck is leaving a 17-year-old son, whom he has tried to prepare for the moment that will come Friday.

"I've been telling him we're going somewhere, it's just a matter of time," Mauck said.

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