Public Safety Strained By Military Reservist Call Up - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

03/22/04

Public Safety Strained By Military Reservist Call Up

The ongoing call of military reservists to active duty means communities across America are making do with fewer police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

Public safety agencies are shuffling schedules and rearranging resources to accommodate the demands of Uncle Sam.

AMR employees had quite a surprise for dispatcher Yolanda Peel. Expecting to fill out paperwork she was greeted instead with a surprise party.

"From the time I got my orders, I let my job know and they checked on my family for me. And the prayers went up. And here I am today. And I'm so blessed to have a job that I can come to. A lot of people don't have that. I'm very blessed," said Peel.

Fellow workers spent time sharing stories with the colleague they've missed for the past year.

Thomas Blakney is the deployment manager for AMR.

"Yolanda is a highly decorated employee of ours who's been involved in several different 911 cases where she's really made a difference in the community and we're just so glad to have her back," he said.

The call up of thousands of military reservists has put a strain on public safety services across the country. The Biloxi Police Department is one of many agencies that's had to shuffle schedules to accommodate the call of its officers to active duty.

"Initially, when this first started we had a large call up," said Biloxi police chief Bruce Dunagan.

Dunagan, himself a Vietnam veteran, says public safety agencies understand the challenges that result from activating reservists.

"We're a larger agency. It's a little easier for us than many of the smaller agencies. We have a lot of people. A lot of redundancy. A lot of people cross trained in different disciplines," he said.

Yolanda Peel appreciates the commitment of public safety to the military. She didn't have to worry about job security, after her deployment was over.

By Steve Phillips

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