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Operation Noble Eagle

President George W. Bush authorized a partial mobilization of the reserves Sept. 15 for homeland defense and civil support missions in response to the terrorist attacks Sept. 11 at the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

While the authorization legally allows Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to call up to a million reserve soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines and Coast Guard members for up to two years of active duty, service chiefs said they only need about 35,000 between them for the stated missions collectively dubbed Operation Noble Eagle.

The Army share of the intial presidential order was about 10,000 soldiers from the Army Reserve and National Guard Bureau. The Air Force planned to call up around 13,000 reservists; the Navy, 3,000; the Marine Corps, 7,500; and the Coast Guard, 2,000.

The Air National Guard kept two fighters flying over New York and four over Washington 24 hours a day, while also is flying random patrols over other major cities. As of mid-January 2002 more than 13,000 homeland defense flights had been flown since 11 September 2001, at an estimated cost of about $325 million. About 26 bases around the country have fighters armed and ready to scramble on 10 minutes notice. The number of air defense fighters on alert had dropped from 5,800 in 1958 to just 20 aircraft nationwide by early 2001. Since the 11 September attacks, the number increased to more than 100 fighers. Between 11 September and 10 December 2001, Air National Guard fighters had scrambled or diverted from regular patrol missions a total of 207 times to investigate suspicious aircraft, compared with 14 scrambles during the same period the previous year.

Other units that were called up include airlift, intelligence support, military police, medical, logistics, engineers, search and rescue, civil affairs, and chaplains. The last partial mobilization order occurred on Jan. 18, 1991 during Operation Desert Storm, when 265,322 National Guard and Reserve members were mobilized.

Most of the reserve-component soldiers who were called up to augment the active force for homeland defense and civil support were volunteers, as thousands had called in to say they are ready to report for duty wherever needed. Some of them were already at work at the World Trade Center and Pentagon in an extended annual training status.

Under a "handshake" agreement with the White House, Rumsfeld coordinated with the president for any call up exceeding 50,000 reservists. The initial call up was just for homeland defense and civil support. However, nothing in the order precluded it from expanding to include a call-up of the reserves for "Enduring Freedom," the operation name given the operation which covers retaliatory action the country took terrorists.

In mid-January 2002 it was reported that NATO had agreed to sending two more Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft to supplement the five it had already has deployed to patrol US airspace. The NATO deployment to the US allowed the American military to use US AWACS aircraft in Operation Enduring Freedom.



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