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Furloughs take effect for 122nd

200 civilians begin weekly cuts; reduced hours won’t close base

The weekly furlough of 200 civilian military technicians began Tuesday at Fort Wayne’s Air National Guard base.

As a result, the 122nd Fighter Wing has cut its flight training schedule from four days a week to three for the rest of the summer.

Federal budget cuts known as sequestration forced the temporary layoffs, which affect nearly two-thirds of the full-time personnel at the south-side base, including its commander, Col. David Augustine.

In all, 10,000 members of the Indiana National Guard are losing 20 percent of their hours and pay over 11 weeks. They include nine members of the 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry Regiment, an Army National Guard unit based in Fort Wayne.

A spokesman stressed that the 122nd Fighter Wing will not close on furlough days.

“Every building is open, every light is on, so to speak,” said Master Sgt. Darin Hubble, public affairs superintendent.

Furloughed workers will take eight hours of unpaid leave on Tuesdays. Because the base operates on 10-hour shifts Tuesdays through Fridays, those technicians will work two hours a day on furlough days.

Hubble said military installations were given flexibility on how to carry out furloughs. The 122nd Fighter Wing arranged its schedule around its 20-plane squadron of A-10 combat jets.

“For safety’s sake, you would never put a jet up in the air unless you had all hands on deck. That was considered first and foremost,” Hubble said.

Many technicians work in A-10 maintenance and support, Hubble said, and staggering their leave days would have spread A-10 employees too thinly.

“We are allowed to keep our cohesion this way,” he said about the Tuesday furloughs. “Our continuity stays intact.”

He also said A-10 pilots will make up Tuesday’s lost flying hours during the remainder of the week.

Budget cuts will not curtail weekend training drills conducted once a month at the Ferguson Road base because technicians are dual-status employees: They are paid by both the federal government and the Indiana National Guard, with the Guard funding the weekend training.

“They essentially have two jobs. It just happens to be at the same place, wearing the same uniform,” Hubble said.

Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd, a member of the House Armed Forces and Veterans’ Affairs committees, issued a statement Tuesday deploring the Indiana furloughs.

“National security should never be sacrificed due to the president’s failed leadership, jeopardizing military readiness and weakening our defense at home and abroad,” she said.

Citing prospects for emergency response efforts during hurricane season, the governors of Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana reportedly have asked President Barack Obama to cancel the National Guard furloughs.

Congress approved sequestration in 2011 as part of the Budget Control Act. The Department of Defense originally ordered 22 days of unpaid leave for 680,000 civilian employee but reduced furlough hours by half in May.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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