Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Isle Air Guard
members face
longer duty

A.F. National Guard security
troops may have another tour
in the war on terror

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Forty-five Hawaii Air National Guard law enforcement specialists -- and possibly more --

expect to spend another year in uniform in the war against terrorism.

The Pentagon has informed some 14,000 Air Force National Guard personnel and reservists who serve as military police, pilots, intelligence officers and mechanics that they might be needed for a second year in the war on terror.

That describes the Hawaii Air National Guard members who belong to the 154th Security Forces Squadron and who have been on active duty since October.

Maj. Chuck Anthony, Hawaii National Guard spokesman, said 39 of these reservists are working for the U.S. Central Command, which has jurisdiction over places like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.

Anthony said he cannot divulge where the Hawaii security specialists have been sent, except to say "it is overseas."

The 39 specialists left Hickam Air Force Base in May, where they had been on active duty following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Another nine have been pulling sentry guard duty at Hickam and other Air Force installations here.

As of yesterday, Anthony said his office has not been notified that any of the Hawaii reservists will be extended for another year.

At the height of the partial mobilization, more than 600 reservists belonging to the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing were placed on active duty. The Pentagon said yesterday only 231 Hawaii Air Guard personnel remain in uniform.

Kathleen Gereski, spokeswoman for the National Guard Bureau, told the Associated Press that the largest group facing an extended term is one made up of 5,700 Air National Guard security troops who protect domestic and overseas bases.

These reservists are trained to function as beat cops, walking airfield fence lines, guarding aircraft and searching cars. Many of the reservists, like Staff Sgt. Clifford Ramson, a member of Hawaii's 154th Security Force, are in law enforcement in their civilian duties.

Ramson, a Honolulu police officer for eight years, said in a February interview that he has been with the Air Guard for 11 years and that many of the members in his unit are fellow officers from HPD, the neighbor islands and local federal law enforcement agencies.

Elsewhere, an additional 3,500 Guard members and 4,800 Air Force reservists, who work in intelligence and equipment maintenance, have been notified they might serve two-year terms, the maximum under the current level of mobilization.

The military is saying that these reservists, however, might not spend the whole year in uniform, but could be demobilized once their services are no longer needed.

That was the case Sunday when 14 members of the Hawaii Air National Guard's 291st Combat Communications Squadron returned to Hilo after spending six months working on Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean used by the U.S. military. Another 10 members of the same unit are still on duty in the Persian Gulf region.

About 76,000 members of the Guard and Reserves -- including troops from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard - are on wartime active duty.

The majority are in the Army and Air Force.

That figure is down from a high of more than 85,000 in early June.

Since then the military has been demobilizing more than 1,000 people a week, said Lt. Col. Dan Stoneking, a Pentagon spokesman.

E-mail to City Desk


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