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WASHINGTON — National Guard units in the Gulf Coast region were called to duty on Monday to help deal with the hurricane threat, while other military forces shut down operations and sought shelter.

Families at Keesler Air Force Base were ordered to evacuate the area starting at 6 a.m. Sunday morning, or report to base shelters no later than 10 p.m.

Attempts Monday morning to contact bases in the region were unsuccessful, with phone lines shut down because of the weather.

On Sunday, stop movement orders were issued at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, as well as various support facilities in around the Gulf Coast. The order stops any personnel movements into or out of the bases.

Louisiana National Guard officials told the Associated Press that about 3,500 guardsmen had been deployed throughout the state to provide assistance to relief efforts. Pentagon officials said another 3,000 are also available to help.

By noon on Monday, about 780 Florida guardsmen and about 850 Mississippi guardsmen were also mobilized to deal with the storm, according to state guard officials.

Pentagon Spokesman Larry Di Rita said Monday that the Pentagon has dispatched four colonels to work with federal, state and local officials to determine what the Defense Department can do to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The colonels are now on site in Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi and are working directly with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Di Rita said.

So far, authorities have not requested help, he said. If requested, the Defense Department can help with debris removal, conduct search and rescue operations, and provide medical teams and Meals, Ready to Eat.

Di Rita said he has heard no discussions about federalizing state National Guard in the states hit by Katrina.

In Mississippi, 60 percent of the National Guard, or about 7,000 guardsmen are available; in Alabama, 77 percent of the National Guard, or about 9,900 guardsmen are available; and in Florida 74 percent of the National Guard, or about 8,200 guardsmen, are available, he said.


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