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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Washington Guardsmen may help relief effort

From staff reports

As many as 600 Washington National Guard personnel, including troops from Spokane, may be sent to the hurricane relief effort, Gov. Christine Gregoire announced Wednesday.

“The situation in the Gulf Coast region is worse than we thought,” said Guard spokesman Maj. Phil Osterli. “We have been involved here in a nationwide planning effort to bring supplies and troops, if necessary, to the region.”

Other state experts in fields such as environment and disease may also be sent if needed, said Gregoire spokeswoman Althea Cawley-Murthree.

Since the 81st Combat Brigade returned from Iraq in March about 85 percent of Washington’s Guard force has been in the state.

If activated for Katrina relief work, Washington Air National Guard’s 141st Air Refueling Wing, located at Fairchild Air Force Base, likely would be among the units sent.

“If we do get word, they will likely be the aircraft we would use,” Osterli said.

Washington is part of coalition of states that activate National Guard units for natural disasters outside their own borders, Cawley-Murthree said.

The final decision to mobilize the Guard will be made by Adjutant Gen. Tim Lowenberg, Osterli said.

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