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Saturday, September 3, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Washington National Guard waiting for call

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Washington National Guard has been told to hurry up and wait as the number of those willing to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina swells into the tens of thousands nationwide.

Responding to pleas from the National Guard Bureau, an organization that coordinates activities of the states' military departments, the Washington National Guard determined that it could send 500 citizen soldiers and six Black Hawk helicopters, along with dozens of Humvees.

So far, the call asking Gov. Christine Gregoire to deploy them to the Gulf Coast has not come.

"More people have a desire to render aid than the region has the ability to take right now," said Sgt. Jeffrey Clayton, spokesman for the Washington National Guard. "The delay is not on our side. It's on theirs."

Thousands of Washington guardsmen received a call in recent days as the state Military Department tested its communication system.

At the earliest, an advance team of about 10 may be called up this weekend, Clayton said.

The Emergency Management Assistance Compact, an interstate agreement that enables Guard troops to be deployed across states, also has put out a national wish list for hurricane aid.

The needs include: flat boats, temporary bridges, water- and ice-distribution experts, and ecological experts.

Trina Sheets, executive director of the National Emergency Management Association, said government officials are trying to make sure that help is available for coming months.

"We need to get people lined up a week from now, a month from now," she said. "The states can only accommodate a certain number of responders" at the moment.

Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or afryer@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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