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SYMBOL OF CRISIS IN PERSIAN GULF TURNS UP WITH WNY CONNECTION

For airmen, the symbol of the gulf crisis is a thin nylon wristband made by Dave Pasisz of Lockport.

Woven of thin nylon cord -- the kind riggers use on pilots' safety gear -- the military-green bracelets are beginning to turn up at U.S. air bases all over the Middle East.

Those who serve in the gulf, or those who support those who do, are wearing the wristbands in a show of solidarity.

"They're not to be taken off until Saddam Hussein leaves Kuwait or every last American leaves Saudi Arabia," said Pasisz, a tech sergeant with the Air Force Reserve unit based in Niagara Falls.

The 914th Tactical Airlift Group, now part of an air-supply wing, has found it easy to deliver the wristbands throughout the gulf region. Daily supply flights take Niagara's air crews to nearly a score of military bases.

The wristbands are braided in the wing's hangar, then tied around each wearer's wrist. The tight fit is secured with a knot, and the free ends are then clipped short and melted in a flame to prevent unraveling.

"When I got here a guy who was just leaving, Jim Ford, quickly showed me how to make one," Pasisz said. "We've made a lot of them since then. Our guys take them with them when they head up north, and they're showing up all over. I've been told there's even a guy in Delaware who's making them."

The wristbands are almost part of the uniform at the 914th's base here. You can see them on the wrists of pilots setting throttle controls, nurses in the clinics, colonels in command centers and maintenance men changing engines on C-130 Hercules aircraft.

"We made a ton of these darn things," said Staff Sgt. Jon Dulian of North Tonawanda, a survival-equipment specialist and one of the riggers who makes the wristbands.

The "Desert Shield Campaign Bracelets," Pasisz said, have consumed about 4,000 feet of strong nylon cord. He and the other riggers give them away; they stand for spirit worth far more than money.

"It takes about five minutes to braid the bracelet," he said. But then, troops here have a lot of time on their hands while the crisis plays out.

These days the wristbands come in different sizes. The original thin band of green cord now has wider and whiter versions, and Dave's working on a green-and-red style for Christmas.

The cord is the kind used on the survival vest for air crew members, and the knot is the best one riggers have yet found to secure the protective equipment.

There is a message in that, too, for those who wear the bands.

The campaign bracelets stand for survival in a hostile environment -- whether the crisis brings more months of waiting or the horrors of war.

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