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Reservists Prepare for Kosovo Duty

April 28, 1999

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) _ Vik Malling had hoped to use the next few weeks to settle into a new home and spend time with his family. Instead, he’s headed for a NATO base in Europe and the fighting in Kosovo.

Malling, a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, was among 33,102 reservists called to active military duty Tuesday by the Pentagon.

``It’s not something we really look forward to, but we are trained and ready to go if called,″ Malling said of his unit, the 940th Air Refueling Wing stationed at Beale Air Force Base about 35 miles north of Sacramento.

The group’s KC-135 tankers will fly midair refueling missions and could be gone for up to nine months.

``I would rather stay here,″ Malling said. ``I have just moved here. I have not settled into my house here, and there were things I was planning to do with my family.″

But he added, ``This is our job and the mission we train for.″

Fifty-nine members of the 927th Air Refueling Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard base in Michigan also got the call Tuesday.

``I salute each of you and your families for your sacrifices and your commitment to our nation,″ said Col. Robert Bailey, commander of the 927th.

The involuntary call-up is the first since NATO began its air campaign against Yugoslavia on March 24. The mobilization is the largest since 240,000 served in the buildup to the 1991 Gulf War.

The first reservists to get the call are from Air Force units based in Alabama, Arizona, California, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

``You go through several different emotions all in about 30 seconds,″ Col. Dean J. Despinoy, commander of the 931st Air Refueling Group at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan., said of the activation.

Daniel Mascia, a maintenance crewman in the 171st Air Refueling Wing at Pittsburgh International Airport, said it was important to keep emotions in check.

``You really don’t know what is going to happen,″ he said. ``You see things on the news, so everybody has a pretty good idea of what is up.″

Wes March is a Republican state lawmaker in Arizona who helps oversee supply and maintenance for air tankers with the 161st Air Refueling Wing in Phoenix.

``I’m not going to weasel out of this war,″ he said. ``As tough as it’s going to be on my family, it’s my commitment to this country and this state to protect us.″