Originally created 09/26/03

Georgia Guard is uncertain about future call-ups, but ready if called



ALBANY, Ga. -- With about 3,600 of their soldiers and airmen already defending the homeland or serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Georgia National Guard officials say the remaining troops are prepared to go if the country needs them.

"I don't think anybody has joined the Guard or Reserves in the last 15 years who really believed it was one weekend a month," Maj. Gen. David B. Poythress, Georgia's adjutant general, said Thursday. "The U.S. policy of global engagement has kept us all over the world and Guardsmen and Reservists know that they are likely to be involved in those deployments."

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, the Pentagon's second-ranking general, has said Defense officials may have to alert thousands of additional National Guard and Reserve troops for duty in Iraq, if other countries fail to provide soldiers for security duties.

Pentagon officials say the Guard and Reserve units would probably be notified in late October or early November so they can reach Iraq by early next year.

The 3,000-member Georgia Air National Guard has units in five locations in the state and the 8,000-member Army National Guard has units at more than 50 armories.

Georgia's largest combat unit, the Macon-based 48th Infantry Brigade, was mobilized for the last Persian Gulf War, but the short war ended as the unit wrapped up its training in California's Mojave Desert.

Since then, about 1,300 members of the 48th took part in the Bosnian peacekeeping mission.

In two years, the 48th is scheduled for a rotation at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., considered the ultimate readiness test.

"The Air Guard stays pretty much combat ready all the time," Poythress said. "The Army construct of Reserve forces entail a certain period of train-up."

With the emphasis on rapid deployment, the train-up has been shortened from about nine to 12 months to three to four months.

Lt. Col. Ken Baldowski, a Georgia Guard spokesman, said there has been no request for more Georgia troops so far, but they remain trained and ready.

"They know when they sign the dotted line, that there is a possibility the nation may need them," he said. "Certainly, it'll affect their personal lives, their jobs, but they have been trained to respond should that eventuality take place. They are highly trained men and women who know their jobs."

Georgia guard members already have been working alongside their active-duty counterparts since the beginning of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said.

The 110 members of the Army Guard's Company H, 121st Infantry (Airborne) Long Range Surveillance Unit of Fort Gillam took part in more then 350 tactical missions in Iraq. The unit returned Wednesday, following a seven-month deployment.

The Air Guard's 116th Air Control Wing from Robins Air Force Base, which uses J-STARS aircraft to provide intelligence to combat commanders on the ground was a critical asset during the Iraqi war, Baldowski said.

Of the 2,925 Georgia Army guard members mobilized since Sept. 11, 2001, 1,650 have been sent to Iraq or Afghanistan and the rest has remained in the United States for homeland defense.

Those deployed are members of 19 Army Guard units that drill at 28 hometown armories. They range from military police officers, to intelligence specialists, to engineers, to truck drivers.

About 900 members of eight Georgia Air National Guard units also have been mobilized and about 600 are still deployed.

"Our guardsmen train to the same exacting measures as required by the active-duty and are capable of performing the same type missions," Baldowski said. "There's a misconception that the A-team has gone in and now we're back filling with the Guard and Reserves. We go as a total force and that means both the active and the Reserve components."

On the Net: http://www.dod.state.ga.us/