- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Three dozen Army reservists from Virginia, Maryland and the District mustered in Rockville, Md. yesterday to report to Fort Jackson, S.C., where they will begin six months to two years as military police protecting bases and personnel.
They are among 35,000 military reservists expected to be called (from all service branches) for Operation Noble Eagle, a homeland-defense mission initiated after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the Pentagon, New York's World Trade Center and in rural western Pennsylvania. About 233 Army Reserve soldiers have been called from the Washington-Baltimore region.
Clad in the camouflage and combat boots that would become their daily attire, they packed cargo trucks and Humvees and said their goodbyes.
Under a blue morning sky creased only by a jet trail, Josie Loope, 22, of Burke smiled, laughed and blinked tears from her eyes as she came to terms with the part-time job of her husband, Pvt. Walter Loope, becoming a full-time reality.
"He picked this [specialty] so he could have fun without me being terrified, but I'm scared," Mrs. Loope said, while holding 3-month-old Sean as Angelica, 4, and Nathaniel, 11/2, wandered within reach waving U.S. flags. "With a terrorist attack, it could happen anywhere."
Already she's organizing get-togethers with others left behind while spouses or fiances go on active duty for an unknown term, including Michele DeMaio, 28, of Alexandria.
Miss DeMaio and Sgt. James Grace, 32, spent every spare moment embracing each other until he and other soldiers driving personal vehicles got behind the wheel to follow a convoy of 10 Humvees on the 10-hour trek to South Carolina.
Miss DeMaio, a Department of Justice budget analyst, and Sgt. Grace, a middle school special-education teacher in Fairfax County, still plan to get married Nov. 3 in Syracuse, N.Y.
When Sgt. Grace was called to active duty, she had already sent invitations to 130 guests, many of whom would have to travel from Virginia and New York City to attend.
Everyone including out-of-town guests who no longer know exactly where or when the wedding will occur has been very understanding, said Miss DeMaio, who has friends who survived the attack on the World Trade Center.
She said the only definite alteration in plans is that her teacher-soldier fiance has decided to get married in uniform, a move that pleases her grandparents.
"It will be nice to look back at the pictures and remember this was going on," Miss DeMaio said.
Nearby, Sgt. Franklin Bilbrey, an Anne Arundel County police detective, said goodbye to his wife, Jalayne, and their three children.
As a member of the National Guard, Mrs. Bilbrey could also be activated.
And since they don't know when the reservists will get to come home, Mrs. Bilbrey says, they'll go to visit him anytime they have a long weekend.
While the deployment is another tour or proud interlude to more senior soldiers, to others, such as college freshman David Millard of the District, who plans on making a career in federal law enforcement, it's one of life's early adventures.
"If it's going to be a full two years, I'll make the best of it," said Pvt. Millard, an Old Dominion University student departing for duty on his 19th birthday. "The Army has a lot of education centers and online classes."
While modest beginning enlisted pay of about $1,043 a month for active duty might seem like a lot for a college student accustomed to only $139 a month while drilling only on weekends, the biggest relief, he said, is that "military friendly" ODU refunded all his tuition and fees for the semester after he sent a copy of his orders.
Employers are required only to hold reservists' jobs, although some do more, such as making up the difference between their military and civilian pay.
Still, for Sgt. Alita Fields, 26, a Baltimore city police officer who joined the Army Reserve while still in high school, the hardest hurdle was explaining the reason she had to leave to her 5-year-old son.
"He saw the planes crash," Sgt. Fields said. "He said, 'Mommy, why are they playing like that?' He thought it was a movie.
"I told him I had to go so it would be safe for him and his friends. Then he said it was OK."

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