More Army reservists from Snohomish County have gotten orders to get ready for a tour of duty in Iraq.
Approximately 40 soldiers from two platoons of the Bothell-based 909th Adjutant General Company (Postal) will be mobilized in December and January. The troops will join nearly 500 Army reservists from nine other Pacific Northwest units that will be readied for war over the next two months.
The call-up includes three Seattle-based units, as well as reserve units based in Yakima, Spokane, Tacoma, Portland, Ore., and Boise, Idaho.
Those units also include soldiers from Snohomish County.
"I knew it was coming. It was just a matter of time," said Army Reserve Pfc. Andrew Herzer of Marysville.
Herzer joined the Army a few months before his senior year at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. A 2002 graduate, Herzer is a chemical operations specialist with the Army Reserve’s 349th Chemical Company in Seattle.
Soldiers from the 349th will be among the first to mobilize in the latest call-up. They report to their units Dec. 7.
Mobilization orders for the 349th and other Northwest units were received by the 70th Regional Readiness Command at Fort Lawton Nov. 8, the day Herzer turned 20.
Like others who will now become full-time soldiers, Herzer is getting his personal life in order. He has put his studies at Eastern Washington University on hold and has broken the news to his girlfriend.
"That one wasn’t too fun," Herzer said. "She cried. She was not happy at all."
Pfc. Analyn Bonifacio, 22, said she was nervous about deploying to Iraq.
"I’m scared. But it is my duty; this is what I signed up for," she said.
The war in Iraq has claimed 397 American lives through Thursday — 259 of them since President Bush declared the end of major combat operations from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln May 1.
Bonifacio, of Edmonds, is also a chemical operations specialist in the 349th. She is taking a leave from her job as a personal shopper at Nordstrom.
Her family has been supportive, Bonifacio said, especially her older brother. A Marine, he just came home from Iraq a few weeks ago.
"He was pretty much giving me things to watch out for. Like scorpions, spiders and the heat," she said.
More than 154,000 National Guard and reserve troops had been mobilized as of Nov. 12, according to the Department of Defense. That number does not include the nearly 500 Army reservists from Northwest units that received mobilization orders on Saturday.
Soldiers have been called to duty for 18 months, but the actual time they serve may be shortened or lengthened by mission requirements, Army officials said. Under current Pentagon policy, soldiers serve a maximum of 12 months in Iraq.
The call-up of reserve units in the Pacific Northwest follows the recent announcement by the Washington National Guard that more than 3,000 troops from the 81st Armor Brigade would be mobilized for duty in Iraq on Nov. 15. The brigade includes the 898th Engineer Battalion, a National Guard unit with soldiers in Everett and Snohomish.
The United States currently has about 128,000 troops in Iraq. Troops being mobilized in the coming months will replace soldiers who will rotate out of Iraq in February, March, April and May.
Pfc. Brett Lippold of Lynnwood will turn 20 about a week after he reports to the 349th Chemical Company for duty in early December. He joined the Army Reserve late last year and just got home in July from basic and advanced training.
Being deployed to Iraq doesn’t bother him, he said.
"I’m just going to do my best and focus on the task at hand," Lippold said.
Spec. Semal Kihn of Everett is a postal clerk with the 909th. Roughly 20 soldiers in two platoons from the Bothell unit will report for duty about a month apart in early December and January.
Kihn, a former Marine who has been in the Army Reserve about 18 months, recalled missing out on the Gulf War. He wanted to go, but his unit left just weeks after he arrived and the next soldier above him on the roster was the last one sent.
Kihn is a student at Everett Community College. He was laid off by Boeing last year after five years with the company.
Although his wife and three kids are worried, Kihn, 33, said he was confident his training would get him through the deployment.
"If something happens, something happens," he said. "If the Lord calls your name, that’s it."
Several reservists said they weren’t worried, because they knew their fellow soldiers would be watching out for them in the months ahead.
"I’ll be watching their backs, and there will be plenty of people watching mine," Herzer said.
Reporter Brian Kelly: