N.C. National Guard unit to be deployed in Persian Gulf

RALEIGH, N.C. (UPI) Volunteers in a specially-trained medical evacuation unit of the North Carolina National Guard will be Joining U.S. troops in/the Persian Gulf, Gov. Jim Martin said Thursday.

Gov. Martin said a request for~use of 21 men and women of the guard unit was made by Gen. Nat Robb, adjutant of the National Guard.

"The Department of Defense requested, and I approved, the participation of 21 members of the 156th Aeromedical Evacuation Flight of the North Carolina Air National guard who volunteered to participate in activities supporting the movement of U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf to help the armed force of Saudi Qrabia enhance their defensive capabilities," Martin said.

Guard officials say it is not unusual to ask for volunteers for any special assignment.

"The Department of Defense asked for 'x' number of people and they asked us to put together a team," said Col. Baron G. Hignite, public affairs officer of the N.C. National Guard.

Robb talked with Martin Thursday to relay the Department of Defense's requested for the unit, Hignite said. But Hignite, citing security, declined to provide details of their mission, its duration or location.

"This is the first time we have had units activated by the Department of Defense for oversease duty." Hignite said. "It's precedent-setting in recent history."

Members of the 156th Aeromedical Evacuation Flight were on standby in December for deployment during "Operation Just Cause" in Panama but did not go to Panama.

Members of the unit have trained in Honduras, Europe and South America, during the past 60 days, the guard said.

The unit is made up of members who are not on duty full time, the guard said.

"This is what our unit trained for," Hignite said. "Our people are prepared to be used in a national emergency. It's not unusual for our people'to be ready and deployed. This is business as usual for us."

Hignite said members of the unit are skilled for helicopter evacuation of military personnel. The volunteers include pilots, doctors, corpsmen and nurses.

"They'are an air medical evacuation flight," Hignite said. "It's trained to be in support of combat operations for evacuation of personne1."