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Support Troops Headed to Saudi Arabia

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12, 1996 – About 1,200 U.S. service members, primarily Air Force personnel, are headed from the United States to Saudi Arabia to set up facilities for U.S. forces moving to Prince Sultan Air Base.

Engineers, security police, communications specialists, air traffic controllers and refueling specialists are among the temporary support staff on their way to the Saudi base near al-Kharj, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said Aug. 6. They will prepare facilities for about 4,000 U.S. troops moving from Riyadh and Dhahran.

DoD and Saudi officials agreed to move Southern Watch air operations and U.S. forces to the remote desert base as a security measure following two terrorist attacks.

"The advantage of the base at Al-Kharj is that it's very isolated and it's also very large," Bacon said. "It's very size and location make it a more secure facility."

The terrorist threat in Saudi Arabia is at the highest possible level, according to DoD officials. Throughout the move, Bacon said, security is being taken very seriously.

"You can be sure that we're doing everything we can to protect these troops where they are now, where they're going and en route," Bacon said. "I'm afraid we live in a world where it's going to be impossible to be free of terrorism, but we can do the best we can to make their jobs difficult."

About 750 U.S. dependents, including about 300 children, are slated to leave Saudi Arabia by about mid-August, Bacon said. Charter aircraft will carry family members and their pets to a reception center at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. They'll be welcomed by teams of experts including logisticians, counselors, travel advisers, veterinarians and people to help with their children, he said.

About 200 engineers of the Air Force 823rd Red Horse Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla., among the first units to deploy, will set up a 4,000-person tent city, service officials said. The unit previously deployed to set up tent cities in Bosnia and Haiti.

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