Guardsmen leave for Texas training - East Valley Tribune: News

Guardsmen leave for Texas training

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Posted: Sunday, February 2, 2003 7:34 am | Updated: 2:16 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

It should be only a few weeks — max — until her husband returns to Arizona.

But Renate Garcia of Scottsdale knows that war looms ahead and plans could change for the 400 members of the National Guard who reported to duty at the Mesa Armory before dawn Saturday — the largest call-up of troops in Arizona in more than a decade.

"We’ve got to give them our support and at least fake it that we’re strong," she said, fighting tears and waving to her husband as a Greyhound bus full of men pulled from the curb, headed toward Texas.

For now, the men are scheduled for a training session and then back to Arizona to guard the state’s Air Force bases and airports.

"I’ll still be living at home," said Tony Smith, a fifth-grade teacher at Chandler’s Andersen Elementary School, who is scheduled to stand guard at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. "I’ll still go to the dunk tank at the spring carnival."

But the troops and their families were well aware that the men are on call for at least the next year, meaning that plans could change.

"It’s scary because it’s serious — not like before," Ahwatukee Foothills resident Brenda Katzorke said as her husband Gene held their two young girls. "I don’t feel the same as before. This is for real."

Mesa resident Aaron Barnes bounced his 2-year-old son Cody on his hip while it was still dark on Saturday morning, but the boy was alive with giggles, trying to pull his dad’s chewing gum out of his mouth.

"It’s kind of stressful not to know," Barnes said. "You do just like you would normally do if you were planning a vacation, only it’s not a vacation."

His girlfriend, 21-year-old Beth Nichols, said she’s starting to realize that Barnes could someday be in danger.

"I already cried once when he shaved his goatee and I realized he was actually a solider," she said. "The realization came hard."

Before they left, Lt. Col. Daryll Fust gave the troops a pep talk, telling them that they will be supporting Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom.

"I can’t think of a better unit to protect the national security of the state of Arizona than this one," he said.

Many of the women hugged after they watched the buses depart, saying to each other that Saturday was "just the beginning."

"There’s a lot of uncertainties," said Queen Creek resident Jona Sherman, who sent off her fiancee, David Payne. "The whole war situation makes me nervous. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do."

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