April 16, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary William Cohen said Friday the Pentagon planned to request a "significant number" of U.S. military reservists and National Guard members be called up to bolster the NATO war against Yugoslavia. But he said the specific number of personnel needed, which sources have put as high as 33,000, had not yet been decided.
President Clinton is expected to approve the request, administration sources said.
Clinton, meantime, was scheduled to meet on Friday with the family of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Stone, one of three U.S. soldiers captured last month by Serb forces along the Yugoslav-Macedonian border.
The meeting will take place at Selfridge Field Air National Guard Base in Michigan, where Clinton will also visit military personnel. Michigan is Stone's home state.
The Pentagon's planned call-up could total 33,000 reserves, mostly air personnel, sources told CNN. The actual number would be based on "military necessity," the sources said, adding that it may not reach 30,000.
"That has not yet reached my desk," Cohen told reporters at the Pentagon when asked about how many reservists would be requested. He said he was meeting with Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other officials to discuss the matter.
"I think it will be a significant number," Cohen said. "I'm not in a position to say how large the number will be at this point."
There was no immediate word on how long the activated personnel would serve.
Most of those called up would be in the Air Force Reserve or the Air National Guard, to handle duties such as refueling, aircraft maintenance and ground logistics.
While many will be pilots or crew members for tankers, cargo planes or other support aircraft, some will operate fighter jets, including F-16s and A-10s, the New York Times reported on Friday.
The newspaper also said the Army is expected to call up a large contingent of reservists, many of them to support the deployment of two dozen Apache helicopter gunships to Albania.
Army reservists also would be assigned to medical, food handling and mail support duties.
The call-up would be the biggest since more than 200,000 reservists were activated during the Persian Gulf War.
The U.S. military relies heavily on reservists, sometimes called "citizen soldiers," for almost any large operation.
Many of the Air Force refueling aircraft in the Balkans already are operated by members of the Air National Guard. Nine Air Guard refueling wings from nine states already are participating in the NATO missions, as are KC-135 refueling units from five Air Force Reserve wings in five states.
The call-up of additional forces would follow a major buildup of U.S. and other NATO aircraft in the effort to halt Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's campaign against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo province.
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