|Reserve Components to Guard America's Homeland|
Reserve Components to Guard America's Homeland
By Staff Sgt. Marcia Triggs, Army News Service.
Washington D.C. -- (ANS) September 25, 2001 -- As President Bush's campaign to end terrorism gets underway, reserve components prepare to secure America's borders, air space and the nation's interest.
About 10,000 Army National Guard and Army Reserve troops will be activated to support "Noble Eagle," America's homeland defense and civil support operations, officials said. President Bush authorized the call-up of 50,000 reserve troops, but service chiefs said they only need 35,000.
Along with the call-up of troops, the Department of Defense announced a mortgage rate cap under the "Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act." Also, Donald Rumsfield, defense secretary, delegated "stop-loss" authority to the heads of the military departments.
Stop-loss was last used during Operation Allied Force over Kosovo, in 1999. It's a program that allows military branches to retain individuals on active duty beyond their date of separation. Those affected by the order generally cannot retire or leave the service as long as reserves are called to active duty or until relieved by the president, whichever is earlier.
The Army has no immediate plans to implement stop-loss.
Housing and Urban Development issued a letter to all Federal Housing Administration-approved lenders advising them of their obligations under the 1940s Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act, said Mel Martinez, HUD secretary.
The act requires that all lenders reduce interest rates on mortgages to no more than 6 percent for all soldiers who are called on active duty. The lenders are also prohibited from foreclosing against any military personnel during and immediately following their tour of active duty.
Active-duty personnel may also qualify for the interest rate cap if they incurred their mortgage debt prior to their active-duty date, Martinez said.
Martinez is also taking additional steps and encouraging mortgage lenders to postpone principal payments on all service members during their tour of duty.
The relief act also helps military renters too by ensuring that they cannot be evicted from their property or by allowing them to terminate lease arrangements, without repercussion.
In 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, the relief act was also re-instituted. For more information, HUD has activated a toll free number, 1-888-297-8685.
The nation's sprit was tested Sept. 11, and now the National Guard feels pressed to protect the citizens of this nation, said Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz, the Army National Guard director.
"You don't find the nation's spirit in buildings. We will rebuild buildings, and over time, we will recover," Schultz said.
National Guard troops have been assisting in the recovery effort in New York City since the day the two jetliners crashed into the twin towers at the World Trade Center, causing them to collapse.
National Guard civil and support teams were among the first on the scene to check for chemical, biological and radiological hazards. These teams were designed to be quickly dispatched to emergency sites that may have hazardous chemicals, Schultz said. Guard members will continuously support the recovery effort until it's complete, Schultz added.
Along with the efforts in New York, National Guardsmen will be strategically placed for homeland defense.
Schultz said homeland defense is guarding the nation, and the kinds of units that might be called up include air defense, airlift, intelligence support, military police, medical, logistics, engineers, search and rescue, civil affairs, chaplains and so forth.
"The mission of homeland defense is steadily emerging," Schultz said. "But it will not take away any of the responsibilities of our state-elected officials. There will always be a local authority, and a first response, such as police and fire departments."
What makes the National Guard unique is that they answer to civil authorities, Schultz said.
"We're in 2,700 communities. We know our first responders, we grew up with them, we work with them, we live with them. Our first responsibility is to the community," Schultz said.
Along with the civil support the National Guard has given, its members have also traveled to 77 countries this year for training and contingency operations, Schultz said.
"We're standing by 365 days a year," Schultz said. "We belong to the communities."