May 5, 1995 in Nation/World

Don’t Shoot; It’s Only The Guard National Guard Wants The Other Militia To Know

By The Spokesman-Review

The Idaho Army National Guard wants you to know: It’s NOT the new world order.

Military personnel carriers and tanks armed with machine guns and a 150-millimeter “bunker basher” will rumble through Kootenai County on Saturday.

Not to worry, Staff Sgt. Michael Kish said. It’s just Coeur d’Alene’s Guard company on its way to weekend training south of Rathdrum.

While military units don’t typically advertise maneuvers, Kish and his 80-person company have grown gun-shy in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing. Guardsmen called media outlets Thursday hoping to notify residents of Saturday’s activities.

“Given the recent militia hysteria and the fears of a government takeover, we want people to know what we’re doing,” he said. “We didn’t want anyone thinking this was a hostile takeover or something.”

It’s not a ridiculous assumption.

On April 27, a few guardsmen drove a military personnel carrier to Sorensen Elementary School. They wanted to show the 13-passenger combat vehicle to the kids.

Within minutes of their return, calls poured into Guard headquarters.

“People asked if it was a show of military power or if the government was coming to take their guns away,” Kish said. “Some wanted to know why there was a ‘Special Forces’ unit in town. The rumors went absolutely rampant after that,” he added.

Guardsmen took calls at home. A few were grilled on the street. It has left many feeling uneasy.

“It’s a strange time right now and it’s a little uncomfortable,” Kish said.

The Bonners Ferry, Idaho, native said his company of 78 men and two women “knows not everyone out there is an ally.

“We’re grocery store clerks, the guy who works in the sawmill, your best friend, but to some people we’re the enemy.”

Despite the April 19 bombing in Oklahoma City and a tide of anti-government sentiment, statewide Guard units have not changed their routines to ward off conspiracy theorists, said Lt. Col. Blair Jaynes, an attorney for Guard administrators in Boise.

“We haven’t put out any guidelines or anything,” Jaynes said. “We’re just doing our jobs as we always have.”

Idaho Gov. Phil Batt, the Guard’s commander in chief, said he was disappointed that changing times had led Guardsmen to tread so gingerly.

“I suppose they want to avoid any misinterpretations,” Batt said during a visit to Coeur d’Alene on Thursday. “I guess everybody just wants to be careful.”

Beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday, a convoy of armored carriers and “combat engineering vehicles” - converted M-60 tank chassis complete with rubber-cleated tracks - will trundle from Seventh Street and Walnut Avenue to a field off state Highway 53 near Rathdrum. The trip will take about two hours.

Company A, 116th Engineering Battalion, will practice breaching an inert minefield.

“We’re not bad guys,” Kish said. “We just need practice.”

MEMO: IDAHO HEADLINE: Don’t shoot; it’s only the National Guard

IDAHO HEADLINE: Don’t shoot; it’s only the National Guard

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