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Guard Call Up - 2003-03-08


The all-volunteer U.S. military is supplemented by Reserve personnel and National Guard units. Over 175,000 Reserve and National Guard personnel have been called up for active duty as the U.S. prepares for possible war with Iraq. In the National Guard, civilians, after their initial training keep up their skills by exercises one weekend a month and two weeks a year. They are, in essence, on stand-by -- ready if called to action.

Betty Van Etten joined a National Guard unit in Maryland and talked with men and women who got that call and now leave their civilian lives and their families to prepare for a possible war.

NATURAL SOUND - Family hugging
MOTHER - “Don’t forget to call.”
SON - “I won’t.”

For most of their lives they are civilians.

NATURAL SOUND - “Detachment. Attention.”

But when they joined the National Guard, these men and women trained to assist their state in times of emergency such as natural disasters… and their country in times of war and homeland defense.

NATURAL SOUND
“We are honored to have everyone here today to take place in this activation ceremony of the 12-29 transportation company, platoons one and two.”

The 12-29 National Guard unit from the state of Maryland is made up of trained truck drivers, mechanics, cooks and others whose primary mission is to transport equipment and supplies to the front line. They leave on this day to train at a U.S. military installation before being given their assignment either overseas or in homeland defense. Their families attend the send-off ceremony. Most had a month to prepare to leave, others a week.

NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIER
“I got married last Thursday and I got activated that same day.”

They leave behind not just family, but their civilian jobs. By law they are guaranteed the job will be there when they return, at the same pay and benefits.

NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIER
“In civilian life I am a mechanic.”

NICHOLAS, NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIER
“I work at University of Maryland Medical hospital.”

NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIER
“I was a truck driver over the road traveling all 48 states and I was down in Georgia when I got the call. So I’m ready to go.”

T.J. works for a brokerage firm in client services; a desk job she says -- lots of phone calls.

T.J., NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIER
“But in my National Guard job I drive trucks and its fun, its exciting . I like the camaraderie. I love the camaraderie. I am ready to do this mission, complete it and come home.”

Home and family are the toughest things to leave behind.

WOMAN
“I don’t know when I will see him again and just him not being here.”

NATURAL SOUND
Nicholas kissing his grandmother

Nicholas is 20-years-old.

NICHOLAS, NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIER
“This is my grandmother. She had a hand in raising me. Every grandmother does though really I think.”

GRANDMOTHER
“This is one of my babies. “

NICHOLAS
“Oh yeah.”

FATHER OF NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIER
“I support this effort 100 percent. I kind of hate to see my son go, but I think it’s the thing he has to do. I went for Korea, it’s a thing that has to be done.”

Some National Guard soldiers here are veterans of the Desert Storm operation in the Gulf over a decade ago.

NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIER
“My daughter, she was only about five years old when I left the first time. She’s 16 now. And my son is ten and we had my son shortly after I came back the first time. So this is his first time going through it.”

This woman’s daughter, a single parent, left a day earlier than those in this unit.

WOMAN
“She told her 8-year-old son, who is terribly worried about her, that she has a commitment. She is going to keep that commitment and she feels it is a commitment that is worthwhile.”

So as the rain fell, the convoy began to roll out. A young man leaves his new wife… a family wants one more goodbye to remember a soldier until he returns. Because no one knows just when that will be.

Betty Van Etten with National Guard Unit 1229 in Parkville, Maryland.

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