WASHINGTON – They don’t know where they’re going or exactly what their jobs will be, but members of the Maryland-based 459th Security Forces Squadron of the Air Force Reserves have been called to service and told to get their affairs in order.
The 47 members of the squadron were called up Sunday, part of the 14,000 reservists and National Guardsmen who have been called up in response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
The members of the 459th squadron, many of them officers in area police departments, follow more than 300 Maryland National Guardsmen who were ordered to the Pentagon shortly after the attacks and 15 volunteers from their own ranks who are helping process remains of Pentagon victims.
The security squadron provides ground defense for air bases and includes Ravens, a special force trained in counter-terrorism, airport security and defusing potential international incidents.
The Air Force has said this call-up could last from six months to two years.
“We hope it won’t be the full two years, but the order gives the president and his chiefs the leeway to keep them on as long as need,” said Maj. James G. Bishop, a spokesman for the 459th Airlift Wing.
The unit’s specific mission is not yet known, he said, but members are training and preparing for whatever lies ahead.
“I can’t say whether it will be here or abroad,” Bishop said. “They’re training and doing everything they need to do to get ready. They get their emergency data up-to-date and their wills in order.”
The squadron is on of 19 units that make up the 4459th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve Command, which has 1,444 Reservists. The wing has reservists from 29 states, who carry people and cargo worldwide in its nine C-141 Starlifter aircraft, Bishop said.
Several Marylanders have also been to provide security at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, said Senior Airman Cathy Milhoan, a wing spokeswoman. The 512th Security Forces Squadron, which also reported for duty Sunday, is providing airfield security to the planes on the runway and to personnel around the base, she said.
“There’s no word on what they’ll be doing long-term,” Milhoan said.
When not on active duty, reservists report to duty at least one weekend each month and also participate in 14 days of training each year. Otherwise, they live normal civilian lives.
Last week, for example, David was designing telecommunications and computer networks for Verizon Communications in Herndon, Va. This week, the Sterling, Va., resident is a first sergeant at Andrews, helping fellow squadron members prepare for the possibility of deployment far from their families.
“I’ll stay behind to act a their representative if they are called away,” David said. Military officials asked that reservists full names not be used, after threats were made against the families of some soldiers who were identified during previous deployments.
Although his wife is anxious, she and David told their four adopted children — ages 9 though 12 — that their father had an important job to do.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Bishop said a family support unit provides health care and counseling to the reservists’ families.
“If (the reservists) are moved off base, we even have a videophone on base where they can bring the kids and they can see each other and talk,” he said.
Fifteen mortuary reservists from the 459th Airlift Wing’s service squadron reported to Dover Air Force Base the week of the attacks. There, the volunteers are helping identify and process remains of the victims of the Pentagon attack.
On Sept. 12, the Defense Department ordered 300 Maryland National Guard members to secure the crime scene at the Pentagon, where they have been working 12-hour shifts around the clock for two weeks, said Lt. Barbara Maher, a Guard spokeswoman.
Maher also said that about a dozen other guard members have been controlling air traffic around the Pentagon.