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N.C. Regiment Could Fight for Peace in Kuwait

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MORRISVILLE — The Pentagon reported Thursday that no Fort Bragg units are being tapped for deployment to the Persian Gulf during the latest buildup.Pope Air Force Base, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station and Camp Lejeune are also in the clear.

TheDepartment of Defensehas ordered 16 F-16 CJs fromShaw Air Force Basein South Carolina to deploy to the Gulf.

National Guard troops from Morrisville, in Wake County, are already in the middle of the situation. The 130th Aviation regiment is deployed along the Kuwait-Iraq border.

In Sept., 122 members of theNorth Carolina National Guardwere sent to Kuwait on a mission called "Operation Southern Watch." They are an aviation regiment trained to operate the Apache helicopter, which shoots anti-tank missiles.

Due to escalating tension with Iraq, they could be called upon to defend Kuwait.

"I was very proud," military spouse Liz Blackmon said. "A little scared, but proud."

When Blackmon's husband, Lieutenant Colonel Ray Blackmon, left to command 81 National Guardsmen from Morrisville in Kuwait, she did not worry.

"We don't fear any danger in Kuwait," Liz said.

Even as tension heats up in the Gulf, Blackmon says she believes in the ideals that the flag outside her home stands for.

"I don't dwell on any of the movements happening there," she said. "We feel confident in their safety."

The North Carolina National Guard says the regiment's mission is to protect Kuwait's border from Iraqi aggression.

"I'm sure they're tensions might be up somewhat," N.C. National Guard Major Robert Jones said. "They should be receiving updated intelligence briefings of any significant change in the Iraqi military posture. I'm sure they're being briefed on that."

Blackmon says she is determined to stay strong for her two young sons, and continues to hope for a peaceful resolution.

"In the absence of Ray's shoulders I have to rely on my inner strength," Liz said.

"These situations have resolved themselves in the past without conflict and that's certainly what we're hoping for," Jones said.

The peacekeeping mission is scheduled to last for six months. Families are expecting their loved ones to be home sometime in March.


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