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To the editor:

Recent press reports that the Utah National Guard is the "second most over-staffed guard in the nation" at 112.2 percent of its authorized strength does not mean the guard has a lot of fat, as a letter in the Sept. 19 Reader's Forum indicated.And it certainly doesn't mean the guard could absorb the funding cuts which would be mandated by the tax reduction initiatives. Salaries of part-time guardsmen are paid by the federal government. Congress determines how much money should go to National Guard salaries, and strength levels are established commensurate with available money.

That Utah is second in the nation in strength is no embarrassment. On the contrary, all Utahns should be proud of the commitment its citizens have to the defense of the country. Unlike the National Guard of Dan Quayle's day, the present Guard, in many cases, would be called to battle even ahead of active duty units.

By demonstrating its commitment to national defense through high strength figures, Utah has been rewarded with expanded units such as the unique linguist brigade and new aviation group which will include one of just five new Apache helicopter battalions nationwide. Utah's three artillery battalions and its Public Affairs unit are scheduled to be expanded. This means more jobs and more federal dollars spent in Utah, rather than other states.

The Utah Guard should be commended for leading the nation in personnel strength. That strength represents muscle, not fat.

Reece Stein

Utah National Guard