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Area Guardsmen are called up for security mission

April 19, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Nearly 100 members of a Maryland National Guard unit based south of Hagerstown are being called up for a one-year Homeland Security mission.

The 729th Forward Support Battalion based on Roxbury Road will help guard three as-yet-unnamed federal installations in the state, said Maj. Charles Kohler, spokesman for the Maryland National Guard.

"We're very proud that they're doing their part in the war on terrorism," he said.

The soldiers, who specialize in logistics and medical support, will be engaged in what's known as "force protection," he said.

"The soldiers that are being activated are real motivated. They're real excited," said Maj. John Stevens with the 729th.

But the unsung heroes are the soldiers' family members and employers, Stevens said.

Some soldiers will have to take a pay cut under active duty, but employers have agreed to make up the difference, he said.

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It's the first time the unit has been deployed for Homeland Security, although some members have served on active duty before, Stevens said.

While it hasn't been determined for sure, most of the soldiers will probably be able to go home at night, Kohler said.

In early May, the soldiers will go to Fort Dix, N.J., and will be mobilized to the installations after that, he said.

A total of 400 citizen soldiers statewide are being called up for Operation Noble Eagle. Others are from a 729th Forward Support Battalion unit out of Catonsville.

The rest are with the 121st Engineer Battalion, which is based in Ellicott City and has units in Prince Frederick, Cumberland, Oakland and LaPlata.

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