Pentagon Boosts Reserve Force

A huge increase in the call-up of National Guard and reserve troops in the past week has pushed the number now serving in the counter-terror war to more than 12 percent of the total force, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

As the United States continued its buildup for a possible war with Iraq, some 38,600 were activated during the week, nearly double the previous largest weekly jump since the September 2001 attacks on America.

"Some...will deploy to the Middle East, others will serve here in the homeland," said Lt. Col. Dan Stoneking, a Defense Department spokesman. "All of them are essential to winning the war on terrorism."

Under an order signed by Bush three days after the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, up to 1 million guard and reserve troops can be called to serve for up to two years. Officials have said it is unlikely that number would be needed.

The total now serving under that order is over 150,000, said Stoneking. It stood at 58,000 just a month ago, steadily stepping up each week since then with increases of 15,000 to 20,000 until the big jump of the past week. The figures do not include guard and reserve members normally serving around the globe in a variety of missions.

Though the Pentagon doesn't specify in the weekly reports where units had been sent, a substantial portion are part of the buildup for a possible war in Iraq.

A rapid buildup for the threatened war to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has put some 130,000 American forces in the Persian Gulf region, defense officials said Wednesday. The number is expected to approach 180,000 within a a couple of weeks.

The Bush administration has said the Iraq campaign is part of the global war against terrorists because Saddam could share weapons of mass destruction with terrorist networks.

In its weekly accounting of those called to active duty for counter-terror efforts, the Pentagon said the number now activated in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve jumped to 113,750 from 80,000 the previous week; the Naval Reserve to 6,270 from 5,600; the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve to 15,700 from 11,700; the Marine Corps to 12,540 from 12,280. The Coast Guard reserve remained at about 2,000.

Since Bush signed what is called a "partial mobilization" order in 2001, about 200,000 have been activated, some finishing their duty and going back to civilian life. The 150,250 now serving represents a little over 12 percent of the total force of 1.22 million guard and reserve forces.

Officials described that as a substantial commitment, but said they are carefully choosing the troops according to skills needed for the effort.

"With any mobilization, we want to ensure that we have not one more, nor one less...than needed on active duty," said Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs.

By Pauline Jelinek