Saturday, September 22, 2001

Reservists wait for call

Local companies getting ready for action

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Imagine going to work every morning and wondering whether the next phone call you take is from someone who will send you halfway around the world and drop you in the middle of a war.

        Mark Mielnicki of Mason has thought about it every day for 10 days now.

        So, too, have thousands of other Tristate residents who are members of Army Reserve units. They have been on alert ever since terrorists slammed airliners into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

        “It's hard to concentrate on anything else,” said Mr. Mielnicki, a sergeant in the 322nd Engineer Company stationed at the Kings Mills Army Reserve Center. The center's a Warren County military outpost tucked away on a dusty country lane in the shadow of Paramount's Kings Island's Eiffel Tower.

        “You go to work and try to do your job, but it's hard not to be thinking about the possibility of going to war,” said Sgt. Mielnicki, who has young children at home. “It's hard waiting.”

        But waiting is all the reservists in the three companies stationed at Kings Mills can do, along with all the others at Army Reserve posts in Fort Thomas, Sharonville and Roselawn.

        As of late Friday, the 88th Regional Support Command at Fort Snelling, Minn., the command center for Army Reservists in six Midwestern states (including Ohio), was saying none of its units had been called to active duty status.

        At Kings Mills, the handful of full-time and part-time reservists in the red brick headquarters building were wondering whether their skills would be needed.

        For Sgt. Mielnicki's company, that skill is laying cable for communications; it is where he learned the skills he uses in his civilian job.

        The 810th Quartermasters Company, also based at Kings Mills, specializes in well-drilling and water transportation. That unit served in the Persian Gulf War, getting water to troops in the Saudi deserts.

        The 558th Signal Company, specializing in communications, is also at Kings Mills. Altogether, about 380 men and women are in the ranks of the three companies.

        Master Sgt. Richard Foster, a Vietnam-era veteran who has been in the Army Reserve ever since, runs the office operations as a civilian federal employee during the week and dons the uniform on weekends. He sees a possibility that one or more of the companies might be needed in Operation Infinite Justice.

        “They've got satellite dishes and all that stuff, but an army still has to have a lot of wires,” said Sgt. Foster, a Pleasant Ridge resident. “We do wire.”

        Sgt. Foster said that since the terrorist attacks last week, the headquarters phone has been ringing with calls from reservists “who are itching to go.

        “We're getting a lot of calls, too, from people who want to sign up, but they only want to sign up if they can go,” the master sergeant said, laughing. “I tell them we don't have any place to go yet.”

        Now, during the waiting period, is when reservists start taking care of “home front” business — getting their finances and insurance in order, making wills, giving power of attorney to spouses and others, and “making sure their families are taken care of while they are gone.”

        The command has a family support group that would give assistance to family members if units are called to action, he said.

        “We wouldn't go nowhere unless all these things are in place,” Sgt. Foster said.

        “But, for the time being, we're just waiting like everybody else.”


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