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Swanick Awaits Activation Orders

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Americans are riveted to their televisions as the Iraq war drama unfolds in their living rooms. But for reservists awaiting the call to duty, the drama holds a different reality.

Erie County Legislature Chairman Charles Swanick has been a reservist for 22 years. Earlier this month, Swanick received notice that he may be called up for active duty -- on very short notice. For now, Swanick rides the elevator each day to his job on the seventh floor of County Hall. But Swanick says life can change in a minute.

"The thing with activation is not that you'll never know," Swanick said. "You'll simply receive a phone call and following that will be an order and you're on your way."

Swanick says he has no qualms about going. He says it's a reality reservists live with from the day they enlist.

"They read the document to us and in the document it does talk about mobilization, activation by the United States Army through actions of the federal government," Swanick said. "It's something that we've know could happen, we've trained for it, we've prepared for it. And I think we just have to go do it."

For this Army Reserve Master Sergeant, with specialty in military supply, there would be plenty to go do. Swanick says he watches those who have already been called up on television doing the job he's trained for.

"So, I just smiled because I'm watching them pour the water and I happen to look at the patch that the soldier had on his uniform and I knew it was a reservist who was doing it," Swanick said. "And I said there's classic work. That's exactly what we do."

Swanick says it's work that will need to be done during the war, and for a very long time after the fighting ends. He says that's when many reservists are likely to be called up to relieve the Army regulars. Swanick along with thousands of other reservists could be be brought in until new order is estabished in Iraq.

Swanick says he will consider resigning his legislative seat if his tour of duty is a lengthy one.

"I'm pretty convinced that on a long activation, it's just not fair to the constituents. In my view, six months is a very long time to be away," Swanick said. "But then I would also consider two years to be extremely long. And I think if the activation truly was and looked like two years, I would step aside."

The Legislature has adopted special rules allowing Swanick to vote during active duty via telecommunications. However, he says that would not be a practical means of governing for an extended period of time.

Swanick says he will ultimately decide how long is too long based on any activation orders he receives.