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Local Squadron in Gulf is Ready for Anything

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FAYETTEVILLE — Part of a squadron from Pope Air Force Base has been in the Persian Gulf since October on normal deployment. While they are not expected to take part in the possible strikes, there is plenty of concern here at home.

Half of the 2nd airlift squadron is in the Gulf. They are scheduled to return to the States early next month. However, the recent military build-up could change those plans.

There are six Pope C-130's in the Persian Gulf along with 170 members of the 2nd airlift squadron.

"They're just doing basic cargo missions where they'll be hauling personnel and equipment back and forth from air fields there in the Arabian Peninsula," Lieutenant Colonel Rich Blanchard said.

Blanchard is the chief pilot of the squadron that is in the Gulf. He says the buildup means his squadron has to be ready for anything.

"Whenever you hear about the heightened state of readiness, they basically start thinking security," he said. "They start watching what they're doing. They get briefings about ways to protect themselves."

Blanchard says he has already been contacted by some of his squads' family members.

"They're starting to express a little concern now because the news is starting to build up about the incidents over there," he said. "Basically, I tell them 'Let's not over-react at this stage. In the past Saddam Hussein has been known to rattle his saber.'"

Any possible attack is not expected until next week. By then, the Iraqi's could have the US military literally seeing stars.

The Leonid Meteor Shower next week could interfere with military satellites. The Air Force says it does not think the meteor shower will cause major problems.

The next steps:
  • UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will meet with the Security Council Friday.
  • President Clinton is lobbying European countries for their support.
  • Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Thursday night that any attacks would target weapons, not Saddam Hussein.
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