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MANY TROOPS TO BE HOME SOON NO SPECIFIC TIME LINES SET FOR RETURN OF HUNDREDS OF RESERVISTS FROM VALLEY.

Byline: Staff and Wire Services

A top Pentagon official said Thursday that many of the 100,000 reserve troops in Iraq could be heading back to the United States soon, but no specific time lines have been set.

More than 13,000 reserve troops from California are mobilized, including more than 300 Army Reserve and Army National Guard members based in Van Nuys, Burbank, Glendale and Sherman Oaks.

More than 800 members of an Encino-based Marine Forces Reserve unit also was deployed in Iraq. Five members of that unit - the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines - have returned to the United States because of injuries sustained in the conflict. One was killed.

The other reservists remain attached to the 1st Marine Division in Iraq, said Capt. Chico Manning, officer in charge of the unit. The injured reservists and family members of those still on active duty will gather at a picnic next Saturday, May 3.

The others - who were called up in January 2002, making them the longest-serving reserve unit - remain in Iraq awaiting word of their anticipated return. The reservists, of whom about 185 are stationed in Encino, were deployed to homeland defense duty in 2002 and sent to Iraq in February.

``There's no indication as to when they're coming back, just that they may be coming back soon,'' Manning said.

The Pentagon has not said how many of the approximately 223,000 backup troops on active duty were called up specifically for the Iraq war, but it likely is in the range of 90,000 to 120,000. The rest are performing other missions, such as security at U.S. military bases at home and abroad.

As of Wednesday, the Pentagon said there were 223,790 reserve members on active duty, an increase of 587 from a week earlier. The number has been growing since war mobilizations began last fall.

``I think we'll see those numbers start to come down now,'' Thomas Hall, the assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said in an interview with a group of reporters. ``It has to. We don't need all of those people now.''

Hall did not say how soon those Guard and Reserve troops would be demobilized or in what numbers.

He noted that even as the total number of active duty personnel goes down, some other reservists will be mobilized as replacements or for assignments related to helping with the reconstruction of Iraq.

Lt. Col. Terry Knight, spokesman for the California National Guard, said Thursday that about 4,000 National Guard reservists are on duty, with about half in Iraq and half in the United States. The Iraq-based troops will remain there for the foreseeable future, assisting in peacekeeping and national reconstruction efforts, Knight said.

``We don't have any word at all (about returning),'' Knight said. ``I know our folks are going to be part of the rebuilding and reinforcement of Iraq.''

In Washington, Hall said his office is reviewing the overall mix of reserve and active duty forces to see whether some skills and specialties now largely in the reserves should be moved to the active duty force.

The Army has the largest number of National Guard and Reserve troops on active duty - 149,141. Hall said that is the largest Army Guard and Reserve mobilization since World War II.

The Naval Reserve has 11,938 on active duty, the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve have 37,179, the Marine Corps Reserve has 21,115, and the Coast Guard Reserve has 4,417.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Apr 25, 2003
Words:585
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