As the national response to terrorist attacks escalates, the citizen soldiers at the Storm Lake armory will be ready if needed.
No National Guard units in Iowa have been mobilized or placed on alert, despite the president's call for extensive numbers of soldiers to be called to active duty. "At this time, we don't know if any Iowa units will be called," said Col. Robert King.
The local armory is focused on their tasks at hand, however. "People in the community will be noticing increased security measures, for example. There are some barricades, and they may see some wire. Guards will be posted and are checking IDs of anyone coming into that armory, and asking that they sign a roster. We don't know how long we will have to do this, but the directive comes directly from Washington, D.C.," King said.
The Storm Lake unit, part of a battery of the 194th Field Artillery division, currently has 85 soldiers, just short of its full-strength complement of 91.
"All of them are proud of what the do, and they understand what their role is in their nation's security. There have been a number of times that Iowa units have been called up for national or state emergencies, and they are prepared for that," King said.
Local soldiers have reason to follow the news from the middle east carefully. Storm Lake soldiers are particularly trained to provide indirect fire support for a combat unit.
Locally and statewide, interest in the Guard has never been higher, King said.
"Our recruiting and retention officers teel me that you can almost mark the hour of the tragedies on the calendar. The calls started coming in, and keep coming in. We have a great many former Guard members calling about coming back in, and we have a marked increase in interest among young people. It makes me feel really good that so many young people are interested in and caring about their country, and are ready to do what is necessary to make sure the freedoms can be passed along to another generation."
There are many reasons people join, but deep inside, what they have in common is a personal sense of patriotism, King said. "They are proud of the role they play to protect what America is all about."
In the days to come, commanders in Storm Lake and other units across the state will be evaluating security programs within their own units. Some units will receive "reaction force mission" with specific requirements for additional training and preparedness, King said.
Anyone interested in more information on the Storm Lake unit of the Iowa National Guard may call 732-4431, or 1-800-GO-GUARD.