Two members of the Hawaii Air National Guard 199th Fighter Squadron checked an F-15 aircraft during Operation Southern Watch in the Persian Gulf region in December 2000. Officials doubt there will be an immediate call-up of reserve units for an Iraqi campaign.

Isle reserves
ready for war

However, most Hawaii
Guard troops are unlikely
to be called to fight Iraq

By Gregg K. Kakesako

More than a decade ago, as America prepared for the war against Iraq, Maj. Gen. Edward Correa commanded the combat support units assigned to the Hawaii Army National Guard.

At that time, Correa was a traditional citizen-soldier working as an attorney, donning his fatigues only monthly for training sessions. The feeling among the citizen-soldiers he commanded then was a "mixture of apprehension and a desire to be tested," Correa recalled.

"It's like being on a football team. You practice. You train and you prepare for that big game," he said.

Now, as the Pentagon prepares for another Iraqi war, Correa, 59, as the director of the state Department of Defense, is the full-time boss of all of Hawaii's Army National Guard soldiers and Air National Guard airmen and women -- nearly 6,000 citizen-soldiers.

Correa said the feeling among his troops is the same as a decade ago.

"When you're in uniform, the feeling doesn't change," the two-star Army general said. "You want a chance to defend your country. We are ready. There is the desire to be tested. You never wish to go to war, but you have gotten all that training and you want to be tested."

During the 1990 Desert Shield build-up and the following Desert Storm campaign, none of Hawaii's 3,000 Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers was called to active duty.

Nationwide, more than 265,000 reservists were activated during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, 37,000 were mobilized during just two years of the Vietnam War and 938,000 were active during the Korean War from 1950 to 1953.

In the current move toward war, Pentagon officials say they anticipate a mobilization of the National Guard and Reserves equal to or larger than the 265,000 called in the Gulf War.

Although no soldiers belonging to the Pacific Army Reserve -- the island's other major reserve force -- were pressed into service, more than 120 members of the 368th Military Police Company in Guam were sent to Iraq to process prisoners of war. The Pacific Army reserve has units in Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa.

Since the Gulf War, nearly 400 Army Reservists in the Pacific have been called to active duty, with nearly 265 within the past year following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Correa doubts there will be an immediate call-up of his units for a new Iraqi campaign because of the Pacific Command's commitments to maintain peace and combat terrorism in the Pacific.

"If something ever happened in places like South Korea, we would be ready to respond," he said. "We're linked to the war-fighting efforts in the Pacific. That's the major focus for us."

The same holds true for 2,400 men and women in the Hawaii Air National Guard, Correa said.

His assessment is based on the heavy commitment the National Guard has made to be an integral part of the new homeland defense force.

If Hawaii's 29th Infantry Brigade, the Army Guard's war-fighting unit here, is ever mobilized, Correa believes it will be over a prolonged period. The last time the 29th Brigade was on active duty was in May 1968, when it was mobilized for duty in Vietnam. The unit remained at Schofield Barracks, but sent soldiers to Vietnam as individual replacements.

It has been the Hawaii Air Guard's jet fighter and tanker pilots and flight crews, air traffic controllers, and communication and radar specialists who have shouldered the call to active duty since the 1991 Gulf War.

Nearly 1,300 Hawaii Air Guard men and women have been deployed to Europe to participate in the continuing allied effort to police no-fly zones over southern and northern Iraq, serving up to six months at a time.

The only call for Hawaii Army National soldiers came in 1996, when six military journalists from the 117th Public Affairs Detachment were placed on active duty for nearly a year and sent to Bosnia as members of the peacekeeping force.

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, 364 Army Guard soldiers traded their aloha shirts for military fatigues. The majority are still on active duty, but remain here as part of the homeland defense force.

During the Gulf War, most of the active military forces from Hawaii were provided by the Marines, which deployed nearly 7,500 Marines, helicopters and F-18 fighter squadrons from Kaneohe. Since then, the F-18 Hornet jet fighter squadrons have been relocated from Kaneohe Bay. Another 500 soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division (Light), 50 Hickam Air Force Base security police officers and five Pearl Harbor-based ships were sent to the Persian Gulf.

Col. John Y.H. Ma, who has been nominated to be the next commander of the Army Reserve's 9th Regional Support Command, said the Army reservists in Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa are ready if called.

"They are well-trained," Ma said. "Last time, they showed that they can do the job."

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