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Local naval reservists depart for Middle East
Amid tearful goodbyes from family and friends, 28 U.S. naval reservists left Cape Girardeau Monday for duty on the island nation of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf.
The 23 men and five women left on a chartered bus shortly after 8 a.m. to waves from family and friends and salutes from full-time military personnel.
The reservists carried little luggage. Some arrived shortly after 6:30 a.m. and some just before departure.
More than 50 family members and friends gathered at the back of the U.S. Naval Reserve Training Center at 2530 Maria Louise Lane as the reservists readied for their trip to the Middle East to help in the campaign against terrorism.
A wife kissed her husband. A father somberly shook his departing son's hand. A teary-eyed little boy gripped a sailor's fingers.
No one was in the mood to talk about the deployment.
"Either they are shy or they want to spend their last couple of minutes here with family," said Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Holton, the mobilization public-affairs officer.
As the bus rolled out of sight, those who saw them off silently drove away.
"I'm not really in the mood to talk about it," said one man, clearly upset as he get into his truck to leave.
Lt. Cmdr. Merv Dial, commanding officer at the center, confirmed that the reservists -- comprised of enlisted security officers, logistic managers and an administration team -- were being mobilized last week but would not name the reservists. He would not say where they were headed, but two reservists confirmed the destination.
The reservists are the first in the area to be activated since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. A complete list of all activated reserve and National Guard units is available at www.defenselink.mil.
Since the attacks, approximately 1,890 naval reservists have been activated, said Lt. John Filostrat of the Naval Reserve in New Orleans, which oversees the Cape Girardeau naval center. That's almost two-thirds of the reserves' overall force of 3,000 nationwide, he said.
Most of the reservists were recalled individually because of their job skills predominantly in law enforcement and security. Others being called to active duty have medical, supply and intelligence skills.
"They go to wherever they're needed," Filostrat said.
Filostrat would not confirm that the Cape Girar-deau center reservists are going to Bahrain, but he said some of those going oversees could be doing port security. There is a naval base in Bahrain, which is east of Saudi Arabia.
"I'm sure they're well trained for whatever they're going to do," he said. "They're standing by to do whatever is needed, and the people there should be real proud of them. These folks have a wide array of talents, and the regular Navy could not do their jobs without the reserves."
During the Persian Gulf War, many naval reservists were activated for six-month tours. Filostrat said this time their service is open-ended.
"They're told to go on duty until the job's over," he said. "Everything ends sometime, but this time it's until the mission is completed."
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