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DESERT STORM -- Notes from the home front

January 30, 1991


Proving ground complaints drop

Residents of the area near Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County seem to be a little less sensitive to the constant firing of weapons there, now that the country is at war.

Records kept by the proving ground show a drop in complaints about the weapons during four of the six months since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

So far this month, there have been only eight complaints, including just two since Jan. 16, when the war broke out, said John Yaquiant, a proving ground spokesman. There were 30 complaints in January 1989, he said.

While officials have no way of proving a correlation between the outbreak of war and a change in the number of complaints, Yaquiant said he hopes residents around the Army post understand that "we are working for the soldier out there in the desert so he can survive."

"We know that people are irritated and inconvenienced" by the test-firing, Yaquiant said. Some complainers cited broken windows and cracked foundations from shock waves that travel across Chesapeake Bay and into Kent County. "We would like people to understand that all along we have been preparing for an eventuality such as Desert Storm," he said.

Yaquiant added that the frequency of test-firing has not changed

since the current conflict started.


After sending some of its activated troops to Saudi Arabia amid much advance publicity and hometown parades last November, the Maryland National Guard now plans to withhold or delay some information about future call-ups as a precaution against terrorism.

Capt. Michael Milord, a spokesman at the Guard's 5th Regiment Armory in Baltimore, said the Pentagon had sent instructions earlier this month not to disclose the number of people involved in future call-ups. The Maryland Guard also is considering delaying any public announcement of the next call-up, he said, until a few hours before the activated troops ship out to Saudi Arabia or to backup assignments in this country.

"We don't have any information that a terrorist threat is that strong," Milord said. "But we don't want to wave up our arms and say this is where our people are going to be for a specific period of time."

Guard armories, where activated troops first report for active duty, are located in the midst of civilian settings, he explained, without the fenced perimeters, guards and other protections of a military base.


The emotional cost of war came to Josh Hall's fifth-grade class yesterday as his teacher broke into tears talking about her son, a soldier, who would soon be sent to serve in Saudi Arabia. She left about 10 a.m., Josh said, and a substitute had to take over.

Josh said he already knew that real war was different from what appears in "Rambo" and other movies featuring an invincible hero. "I thought war was a big joke on TV, in the shows. It's not a joke, people are dying," Josh said. "Rambo makes it look really easy. It's not."

Josh had been learning already about war and its toll on the home front through a support group at his school, Red House Run Elementary in Rosedale, for children with family serving in the war. Josh belongs to the group by virtue of a close family

friend who is stationed in Saudi Arabia.

War news looms large for Josh and others in his support group, who say they read about the war in newspapers and watch the evening news more closely now. Recently, Josh watched a special news program answering questions children ask about the war.

What he wanted to know, and what the program explained, was that the war is too far away to reach the United States and that Maryland kids' homes are well out of range of Iraqi Scud missiles.

"It took a big load off my mind," Josh said.


In a letter addressed to President Bush, Gov. William Donald Schaefer yesterday offered the state's environmental Emergency Response Team to assist in the oil spill in the Persian Gulf.

Schaefer offered to send experts in cleanup management. "Mr. President," the governor wrote, "call on us if we can help."


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