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Family Members to Leave Saudi Arabia

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 1996 – DoD is sending about 750 family members home from Saudi Arabia as part of its effort to protect DoD personnel and their families from terrorists, according to Pentagon officials.

U.S. forces are moving from urban sites in Dhahran and Riyadh to more secure Saudi military bases, DoD officials said. "One of the consequences of the move is that some of the families will not be accommodated there, and they will be coming home," Defense Secretary William Perry told a roundtable of reporters August 3.

About 4,000 of the 5,000 U.S. forces serving in Saudi Arabia are on unaccompanied tours, Perry said. "We're going to be increasing that to a significantly higher percentage of unaccompanied tours," he said.

DoD is setting up a reception center at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., to help dependents and other American citizens who leave Saudi Arabia. Center officials will provide medical, finance, personnel and communication services. They will also help dependents arrange for transportation to their final destinations.

"The rise in terrorism presents a new and uncertain threat," Deputy Defense Secretary John White said during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the defense overseas schools system Aug. 2.

"For the troops, self-protection is already an inherent part of every military operation, from training exercises to actual combat missions," White said. "But force protection is not our only consideration. We must also protect the civilian members of the DoD family."

Unlike U.S. troops, family members do not volunteer to go in harm's way, White said. "So in Saudi Arabia, where the risk of terrorist attack is high, we have decided to send dependents home," he said. "We recognize this new policy will be a hardship for some, and we will do all we can, but our first responsibility is to protect the families."

DoD families worldwide need to be on the alert, White said. "The threat of terrorism is not isolated to this or any region: It could strike the DoD family anywhere, anytime," he said. "The bottom line for every member of the DoD family overseas is caution. National security begins with personal security. Each person provides his or her own first line of defense. That means being alert and careful. Most of all, it means watching out for each other and taking care of each other."

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