State National Guard says units ready to go

Maryland reservists not among those Bush has called to active duty

Terrorism Strikes America

The Response

September 15, 2001|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Members of the Maryland National Guard and military reserve units around the state are waiting anxiously to see whether they will be part of the largest call-up since the Persian Gulf war.

No state units were named by the military yesterday as part of President Bush's order authorizing as many as 50,000 reserve forces, but Marylanders said they are prepared for any mission.

Their sense of urgency - and desire to help - is heightened by the recurring images of death and destruction at the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

"I think all Americans at this particular point want to step up to the plate and do something," said Maj. Dan Marino of Bel Air, a pilot in the 175th Wing of the Maryland Air National Guard. "We are all very well trained, a lot of money has been spent on us, but now [comes] patience."

Reservist David H. Cordle of Annapolis, meanwhile, is wondering whether he will have to run for City Council this fall in absentia and vote absentee.

Cordle, chief investigator for the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office, is the Republican candidate in Ward 5.

He is also a lieutenant colonel, commander of the 468th Transportation Detachment out of Fort Meade.

"They sent me to peace," he said of several months spent in Bosnia. "They'll send me to war."

There are more than 8,000 members of the Maryland National Guard, including about 2,000 in the Air National Guard.

For more than a century, members of the Maryland Guard have been an integral part of American reserve units. They were the first National Guard forces called to duty during World War II, Maryland National Guard officials said.

Much of the state's Army National Guard contingent is part of the 29th Light Infantry Division - a group of highly mobile foot soldiers who can be deployed rapidly.

Maryland is the largest contributor of soldiers to that division, said Lt. Barbara Maher, a spokeswoman for the Maryland National Guard and a division member.

"We've got to be ready in a snap, and we are [typically] one of the first call-ups," Maher said.

If Maryland's Army National Guard units are federalized, Maher said, they will likely provide medical and transportation support, military police officers and maintenance and supply troops.

A few hundred Maryland Army National Guard soldiers have already been called up by Gov. Parris N. Glendening - who oversees the state's Guard troops unless they are federalized by the president - to provide security at area military installations, Maher said.

At Camp Fretterd in Reisterstown yesterday, two military policemen who were patrolling the base in an armored car said they are ready to be part of a broader federal deployment.

"Most of us would rather be doing something helpful - maybe in Washington or New York - and more hands-on," said Jeremy Wolbarsht, 31, a member of the 29th Infantry Division.

Wolbarsht, who has been away from his wife and two children since Wednesday, already is preparing for what could be an extended separation.

"It's hard. ... I don't know when I am coming home," said Wolbarsht, who lives in Warrenton, Va. "My kids are already constantly asking, `When is Dad coming home?'"

Brian Battle, 23, who is also a military policeman in the 29th Light Infantry Division, wonders whether he will be able to finish college on time.

A senior at Morgan State University, he is scheduled to graduate in December with a major in information systems.

"I just think this is the start of something much worse," Battle said, while noting he is "more than ready" to do anything he is called upon to do.

Lt. Robert L. Gould, a spokesman for the Maryland Air National Guard, said being a member of the National Guard is far different today than before the Persian Gulf war in 1991, when thousands of Maryland members were called to active duty.

"While deployments used to be something that was out of the ordinary, it is quite an ordinary thing to be deployed today because of the reliance the Department of Defense puts on reserve units," he said. "We take this very, very, seriously and train very, very seriously."

The Maryland Air National Guard, based at the Warfield Air National Guard base in Middle River, next to Martin State Airport, is made up 15 A-10 jets and eight C-130J transport planes.

Its pilots are scheduled to patrol no-fly zones over Iraq in October. They are waiting to see whether their assignment will change because of this week's terrorist attacks.

"We have already been increasing the intensity of our training with our imminent deployment to southwest Asia, so ... we are in a good position to execute the orders of the president no matter where it will be," Marino said.

Sun staff writer Andrea Siegel contributed to this report.

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