The Coast Guard is sending roughly 600 personnel and eight cutters to the Persian Gulf - the first mobilization of cutter boats to a potential combat zone since the Vietnam War.

A spokesman, Cmdr. Jim McPherson, said Wednesday the aim of the deployment is to "deter the suicide bomb threat."

McPherson said the cutters -- 110-foot high-speed patrol boats -- will be departing within the next few days and said their role will be to protect "high value targets" such as Navy ships, oil tankers and military command vessels.

More than 60,000 troops are already in the Gulf region, to be joined by about 120,000 more over the next few weeks. The buildup is expected to be complete before the end of February.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon announced that another 15,718 National Guard and Reserve forces have been called to active duty over the past week. The total number of active duty now stands at 94,624, most of whom are for homeland security. The exact number called up for duty in the Persian Gulf region was not disclosed, but it is expected to increase substantially in coming weeks as the prospect of war approaches.

Since Jan. 15, the number of National Guard and Reserve members mobilized has jumped by 35,730.

Under an order signed by President Bush three days after the 2001 terrorist attacks, up to 1 million guard and reserve forces can be called to serve for up to two years.