The base commander of an Air National Guard unit that recently moved from Van Nuys to Ventura County has put 1,400 active duty and reserve personnel on a "heightened state of awareness" in preparation for a possible call to the Middle East.
"We have been advising our people to get their personal affairs in order," said Col. Daniel H. Pemberton, commander of the Channel Islands Air National Guard Base adjacent to Point Mugu. "We have been getting our recall rosters in order and we have been taking inventory of all our personnel and supplies."
Pemberton said the National Guard unit, which includes a fleet of 16 C-130 Hercules transport planes, has not been put on any special standby status or heightened state of readiness. "But prudence dictates that we gear up for what might be coming," he said.
Over the weekend, President Bush began preparing to act on a Pentagon request for permission to call up as many as 150,000 members of the National Guard and other reserve units to meet critical shortages of support troops in the Persian Gulf.
The principal mission of the Channel Islands guard unit, which moved from Van Nuys in March, and most of whose members live in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, is to haul military cargo. The base's 146th Tactical Airlift Wing has 16 C-130 Hercules transport planes designed to carry military supplies and troops relatively short distances.
The Channel Islands base also has a military police unit, a civilian engineering unit for emergency construction, a 170-member air medical evacuation unit and an air medical tactical hospital of about 50 personnel qualified to administer medical aid in the field.
Combat operations are not new to the 146th Tactical Airlift Wing, which provided air support in the Korean and Vietnam wars. More recently, a portion of the wing was used in the military mission to topple Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega.
The guard unit moved 1,647 passengers and more than 363 tons of cargo in that operation, which won high praise from other U.S. forces in Panama for grueling hours in the air and missions flown under "lights-out" conditions that included some blackout landings.
The Channel Islands base has 320 full-time members and about 1,100 reservists who report to duty on scheduled weekends and go on training missions once a year.