A reservist with the Navy Seabees, Boone didn't volunteer for service overseas. He would rather spend time with his wife at their new home in San Jacinto -- the one where red geraniums bloom in the front yard and his personal tribute to NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt dominates his office.

Boone, 40, thought his assignment to his Navy Reserve Seabee outfit, one that supports other units when they head overseas, would keep him in the U.S. After all, almost four years into the war on terror, he still hadn't been called to active duty.

Boone's journey to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa to support the war on terror began Friday. His activation, coming so long after the Sept. 11 attacks, illustrates how the fight against terrorism continues to disrupt the lives of the citizen-soldiers who make up the reserves.

"Would I have volunteered for this? No," Boone said during an interview this week in the living room of the family home. "I did not request to volunteer but I always knew I could go. I guess I got the short straw. I'm worried sick about leaving home but I want to be part of this war effort. I want to play my part. When I joined the Navy, I said yes.

"I would almost have rather been deployed three years ago. Back then, we had a better idea of who the enemy was. Today, the enemy is pretty hard to predict. You know the military might the U.S. has in Afghanistan and Iraq. You don't know what to expect in Djibouti."

Cmdr. Matt Berta, who heads up the Navy Operations Support Center in Moreno Valley, said a 10-day activation notice is "not desired but not unheard of."

Typically, the Navy allows a month for sailors activated to get their personal affairs in order. But when someone is needed immediately, the notice can be as short as 72 hours.

Berta said all naval reservists should expect active-duty assignments in the post-Sept. 11 world. The days when reservists did duty one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer are over as America fights a worldwide war while reducing its military infrastructure.

About 35 percent of the 550 sailors affiliated with the Moreno Valley center have been deployed, some for two years. Right now, 22 are serving active-duty assignments. Of the entire 57,770-member Navy Reserve, 12,648 are mobilized or otherwise supporting active-duty forces.

"It's not a matter of if you will get called," Berta said. "It's only a question of when. It's a new game, and you've got to be ready to go."

In a recent interview with Navy Times, Cotton had a message to today's reservists: "You are going to deploy. You are going to come back and rest a while, then you're going to deploy again."

Boone's deployment procedure begins with the 40-minute drive from his home to the Moreno Valley naval support center. Regulations call for him to review paperwork listing his dependents and medical history, and to make sure his shots for yellow fever and tetanus are up to date.

He would receive a new identification card, one that says he's now on active duty. There's also a discussion about his life-insurance policy.

On Sunday, Boone heads to Norfolk, Va., where he will get medical and dental checks, new dog tags and all his records. They'll follow him throughout his tour of duty.

Next stop: Fort Jackson, S.C., for combat training. He'll drill with the M-16 and learn the rules of engagement with the enemy. There will be some live-fire exercises. Boone will likely get briefings about Djibouti and the Horn of Africa, where the Navy operates a supply base. As many as 800 special-operations troops have been stationed there to hunt al-Qaida suspects in Yemen and Taliban in Afghanistan.

As a construction mechanic first class petty officer with almost 15 years of military experience, Boone will earn a base salary of $2,950 a month. That will be augmented with housing, subsistence and family-separation pay, which could raise his pay to $4,000 a month. Since it's in a combat theater, it's tax-free.

If Boone is lucky, his tour will be cut short and he'll be home in less than a year. If he's not, he could be extended to another year overseas. There's also a chance he could be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Boone's wife, Brenda Boone, fought tears as she recalled the moment she first heard of his impending deployment. She was in the meat department of a grocery store shopping for dinner when her cell phone rang. Dinner plans went kaput.

Then she focused her energies on finding out about Djibouti. Among other things, she learned 94 percent of the population is Muslim. She said she takes solace in knowing that no sailors have been killed in Djibouti.

During the last 10 days, Brenda Boone purchased a laptop computer, digital camera and calculator for her husband. There have also been trips to purchase the right kind of T-shirts, socks and other clothing.

"It's been a roller coaster," said Brenda Boone, 36, as she held her husband's hand. "It's been up and down. I'm very proud of him but I didn't want him to go to a combat zone. I never expected this. I thought he was safe."

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