Craig officer, reservist activated

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Placed on "stand-by" notice Friday by military officials, Army reservist and Craig Police Sgt. Brian Soper's cellular phone rang while meeting Tuesday with his boss on issues related to his possible deployment to the Middle East.

Soper Tuesday night was ordered to report to Grand Junction today for various military vaccinations and, ultimately, to Fort Carson as a heavy combat engineer with the Army's 244th Engineers.

"Keep your head down," was Chief Walt Vanatta's parting advice.

Soper, a 34-year-old Michigan native, has been with the Craig Police Department since May 1998.

He's the lone military reservist employed by the department, which, by federal law, must guarantee the same position to anyone returning from service, Vanatta said.

Soper is granted 15 days leave with pay, after which he'll receive federal paychecks, the chief said.

"It shows he's dedicated to the United States and is willing to take that next step instead of talking about it," Vanatta said.

Soper's service activation is for one year.

"We're going to have to do some personnel shuffling," he said.

Vannata, Capt. Jerry DeLong and Lt. John Forgay would fill day-shift patrol positions until another officer can be hired -- while Soper's return would mean the department wouldn't replace the next officer who leaves Craig.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.

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