3 more Md. units called in Persian Gulf buildup

November 21, 1990|By Rafael Alvarez

They'll be inspecting food, treating psychiatric patients, and, just maybe, operating towns and cities formerly controlled by the enemy.

They'll be doing it as members of the latest three Maryland reserve units to be called up on Monday: the 531st Medical Detachment from Baltimore, the 352nd Civil Affairs Headquarters Company from Riverdale, and the 422nd Medical Detachment from Rockville.

About 200 people in all, the units will be reporting from their civilian jobs to their reserve stations today and, at the earliest, will be ready to ship out to Saudi Arabia sometime next week.

The medical units from the 531st and the 422nd have easy-to-understand jobs: the former will be checking to make sure food for the troops is stored properly -- "If you took a bunch of canned meals and put them in dank basement, they wouldn't last very long," said Maj. Loren D. Porr, a spokesman for the 1st U.S. Army -- and the latter will minister to soldiers suffering psychological problems.

The job of the 352nd -- an estimated 136 people at full-strength -- is a bit more complicated.

"It's kind of like nation building, after the fact," said Major Porr. He said he could not speculate as to what "the fact" might be in the case of Saudi Arabia.

It could be almost anything.

For example, if the Iraqis happened to be running the water works in Kuwait City and U.S. forces took the city from them, the 352nd would supervise the water system.

"A command and control group specializes in planning, what if-ing," said Major Porr. "They plan for eventuality. If you don't go into something with a plan, your ability to do it is severely restricted. If I go into an operation with no plan whatsoever, I'm probably going to botch it horribly."

Major Porr said that the 1st U.S. Army has a total of about 192,000 reservists throughout 13 northeastern states. Of that number, only about 8,200, he said, have been called up.

"We're far from being cleaned out," said Major Porr. "There's a lot of diversity in the type of units we can call up. By no means is the bucket empty."

Almost every type of skill necessary in civilian life is present among the roughly 230,000 U.S. troops now stationed in Saudi Arabia.

"We've got units involve in just about everything from snowshoe repair," said one Army spokesman. "And I'm sure we haven't sent any people over who shoe horses."

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