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Hill Aides Depart as Pentagon Calls Up Troops

Travis Deti was in his office Friday talking to fellow Senate staffers about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s order to call up 35,000 troops, wondering if he would be among them. Five days later he left for the Persian Gulf.

Attending his regular one-weekend-a-month reserve duty Saturday, Deti was informed he would depart in 48 hours.

The legislative aide to Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) has spent more than five years in the Marine Reserve, most recently as a sergeant.

The staffer is an operations specialist in the Fourth Combat Engineer Battalion based in Baltimore, according to Thomas spokeswoman Carrie Sloan.

“Our efforts to combat the production and proliferation of weapons require that we prepare forces in the Middle East, of course, and everyone has a role in that,” Thomas said in a Senate floor speech.

“As a fellow Marine, I know that Travis is ready to do what he can do, prepared to serve his country, and I’m very, very proud of what he’s doing during this difficult time. So, Travis, Semper Fi.”

It’s was a busy few days for Deti as he scrambled to prepare himself for a protracted absence. Sloan said he wished not to comment on how long he expected to be gone.

The day before learning of his orders to report, he was promoted from legislative correspondent to legislative aide. Deti, who is in his early 30s, has spent more than three years with the Senator.

His wife, Kim Deti, is press secretary to House Budget Chairman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa). Both Kim and Travis Deti were unavailable for comment for this story.

Because Congressional staffers who serve as reservists are diffused in different units, it’s nearly impossible to determine how many aides have been given notice.

But with the possibility of war with Iraq looming, and with 87,000 troops having been called up since Dec. 24, it’s likely that dozens of Hill staffers could be deployed.

Steve Thompson, 32, was called up in November. He is Rep. Wally Herger’s (R-Calif.) legislative director.

A captain in the Army Corps of Engineers, Thompson’s assignment is to build bridges, according to Herger spokesman Daniel MacLean. MacLean was not at liberty to reveal where Thompson was deployed.

MacLean said the duration of Thompson’s active service could range from six months to two years.

“We’re not certain when he’s coming back,” MacLean said. “There have been some reassignments. We are dividing up his responsibilities. We fully expect to have him back as legislative director when he returns.”

Matt Miller, administrative assistant for Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.), recently finished active duty in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He returned to the Hill about a month ago.

Sean Spicer, a staffer on the House Budget Committee, is a Naval reservist in Program 35, the public affairs unit. He has not received notice that he will be called up, but he said reservists shouldn’t be shocked when they are deployed.

“Part of being in this job — whether it’s next week or next year — is you’re ready to go,” he said.

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