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Marchers Support NATO, Guardsmen Prepare for Worse

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RALEIGH — While local activists encourage a buildup of troops in the Balkan region, thousands of part-time soldiers are waiting to learn if they will be deployed.

National Guardsmen are training this weekend to protect themselves from chemical and biological weapons. But they are also waiting to learn if they will be deployed to another type of conflict.

The Department of Defense intends to mobilize as many as 33,000 guard and reservists to support the U.S. effort in the Balkans.

"We don't have any designations of units, so we don't know if any North Carolina units will be deployed or involved," says Major Robert Jones with the N.C. National Guard.

None of the guard units are on alert right now. It will be days, or even weeks, before specific units are deployed. They know some of the units that will be in demand are located in North Carolina.

"Some of the open press releases indicated a need for aviation support units and air guard and reserve pilots and aircraft and we have all of that here in North Carolina," Jones said.

While Guardsmen prepared for possible duty in the Balkans, natives of the region rallied in support of the NATO campaign.

A few dozen people marched through Raleigh Saturday chanting and carrying signs that compare Milosevic to Hitler. They are calling for an end to ethnic cleansing and demanding independence for Kosovo.

"It's very important for us to realize that the problem in Kosovo cannot be solved by just a protectorate system," says march organizer Iyad Hindi "It needs to be given independence, and that's the only solution."

The march was organized by a local organization that supports Muslisms like the Albanians in Kosovo. Meanwhile, the National Guard should have a better idea in the next few weeks if they will be deployed.

The Army and Marine Reserve offices in Raleigh say they do not anticipate being activated.