Guard's involuntary deployment is first in state since WWII

Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Members of an elite military air rescue squadron are in Kuwait in the first involuntary call-up of Alaska National Guard troops since World War II.

The call to active duty of 150 military combat pararescuers and support crew from the Guard's 210th Air Rescue Squadron began nearly two months ago, according to Maj. Mike Haller, Guard spokesman.

It's unclear how many of the 150 rescuers were deployed to Kuwait and how many will remain in Alaska to handle the squadron's search and rescue responsibilities from Kulis Air National Guard base in Anchorage.

The 210th includes a total of 225 members trained to mount high-risk rescues in Alaska and also rescue downed pilots behind enemy lines.

The deployment of 210th members was extended because potential replacements were sapped by the war in Afghanistan, officials said. The guard members are participating in Operation Southern Watch, monitoring the no-fly zone over Iraq and Kuwait. The monitoring began more than a decade ago, after the Gulf War.

Members of the 210th mounted the search and rescue when two American helicopters were shot down by friendly fire in the mid-1990s.

The last time the Alaska Guard used an involuntary call-up was during World War II. The Guard was inactive during the Korean War and took volunteers during Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm, he said.

Guard officials would not release the location of the 210th camp in Kuwait but described it as a rustic community of Army-Air Force rescuers living mostly in tents and some steel buildings.

It's not impossible, but highly unlikely, that the elite outdoorsmen of the 210th could be involved in a rescue in Afghanistan, Lenz said.

''I'd imagine there are other pararescuers closer than us, and Marines and Special Forces directly involved,'' he said.

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