|By Carley Dangona
F15s in flight at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield.
Photo courtesy of the 104th Fighter Wing
WESTFIELD – The national government shutdown has had far-reaching, local impacts. Two hundred and sixty full-time technicians were forced to stay home from Oct. 1 to 6 and the October training exercise was canceled at Barnes Air National Guard Base.
The members of the 104th Fighter Wing returned to work at Barnes Air National Guard Base returned on Oct. 7. According to Maj. David Mendoza, executive officer of Public Affairs, the issue of compensation hasn’t been resolved, but the mandatory leave falls under the Pay Our Military Act. The training drill has not been rescheduled.
“The furlough has had great impact. Everyone has been touched by this. It brought our operations to a screeching halt,” Mendoza said, adding that the last furlough occurred 17 years ago.
He explained that the members affected by the shutdown were those that “wear the uniform every day, but are considered civilians.” Mendoza said that the Active Guard Reserve, the active-duty workforce, was not impacted.
“Everyone would work as efficiently and safely as they can [to make up for the lost time],” Mendoza commented. The F15 pilots are required to log a specified number of hours each month and will now have to make up that flight time.
“Due to the federal government shut down, the October Unit Training Assembly scheduled for this upcoming weekend is cancelled. We will have further words on the rescheduling of the training weekend in the near future,” Col. James Keefe, commander of the 104th Fighter Wing, said. “I can’t thank the men and women of the 104th enough for their flexibility and professionalism.”
Mendoza stated the men and women scheduled to take part in the drill had to make personal sacrifices such as taking time off from their regular full-time jobs to participate and then it was canceled.
He also said that the furlough “had a huge impact on the economy as a whole,” because local businesses such as restaurants were used to accommodating the 260 military personnel. For that week, sales were lost.
“We’re excited to be back,” Mendoza said.
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