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U.S. troops, contractors in Georgia not believed to be at risk

By PAT DICKSON AND JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 9, 2008

Fighting has erupted between Georgia, a staunch U.S. ally, and Russia over the breakaway province of South Ossetia, but none of the U.S. personnel in Georgia appear to be at risk.

There are 127 U.S. military trainers there, of whom about 35 are civilian contractors, according to Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

All are safe and accounted for, according to United States European Command.

“They are safe and not engaged (in this conflict),” said Lt. Col. John Dorrian, EUCOM spokesman.

Dorrian said it would be inappropriate to speculate whether their level of involvement could change.

U.S. Forces have been busy preparing Georgians for a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Obviously those training activities are suspended at this point,” Dorrian said from EUCOM’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.

Meanwhile, EUCOM leaders are looking at whether the conflict poses any safety concerns for personnel stationed at the U.S. Embassy.

“We’re monitoring the situation to determine if any U.S. military support might be required in support of the U.S. Embassy,” Dorrian said. “We’re very considered and are monitoring it closely.”

As of Friday afternoon, no evacuations had been ordered.

With respect to the fighting, Barker said EUCOM intends to stay on the sidelines.

"We're going to watch and see how this unfolds," Barker said.In addition to the trainers, 1,000 soldiers from the Vicenza, Italy-based Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and the Kaiserslautern-based 21st Theater Sustainment Command, along with Marine reservists with the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines out of Ohio, and the state of Georgia’s Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry recently participated in “Immediate Response 2008.”

Though the training exercise ended Thursday, soldiers are still in the country, though nowhere near the conflict, according to EUCOM’sLt. Cmdr. Corey Barker. The Marines have already left.


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