Federal budget crunch idles drill weekend | NevadaAppeal.com

Federal budget crunch idles drill weekend

Capitol Bureau
A federal fundhing shortfall closed most National Guard units last weekend including those in Nevada and the 60th Combat Engineer Company in Fallon.
STEVE RANSON / SRANSON@LAHONTANVALLEYNEWS.COM |

The Nevada National Guardsmen are among the nation’s citizen-soldiers, whose motto is “Always Ready, Always There,” who did not attend regular training drills last weekend because of a federal funding shortfall.

Tens of thousands of National Guard members from New Hampshire to Hawaii were idled because of a $101 million gap that has led to drills being postponed and travel being suspended, National Guard spokesman Capt. John Fesler said. Meanwhile, there are efforts underway in Congress to get funding reallocated so drills can be held later this month and so Guard members will get pay they were counting on.

According Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka, public affairs officer for the Nevada National Guard, there are about 3,200 Army Guard soldiers in state, about 250 in Carson City and more than 50 in Fallon whose drill was postponed.

Guardsmen in Fallon are assigned to the 609th Combat Engineer Company.

Decisions to postpone or cancel drills were made by individual state Guard leaders. Some, including Alaska, New Jersey, Oregon and Vermont, had drill as scheduled. Texas authorities said Guard members already on border missions were not affected by the training delay.

“If situation arises, this funding shortfall does not affect the Guard’s ability to respond promptly to state or national contingencies,” Studenicka said.

He said the Remembrance Run to honor those killed in the Sept. 6, 2011, shooting was still conducted from IHOP to the Nevada Guard’s Office of the Adjutant General complex at 2460 Fairview Drive.

According to the National Guard, among reasons for the shortfall are fewer Guard deployments overseas that are funded separately and higher-than-expected attendance for training paid by the Guard.

“The National Guard is committed to resolving the issue with least impact to our citizen-soldiers and ensuring they are ready for missions whether at home or overseas,” Fesler said.

Most of the nation’s 350,000 Army Guard members are part time, and many have full-time civilian jobs. They get paid for readiness training, earning hundreds of dollars for a weekend of drills depending on their rank. They also get credits that build toward retirement benefits. Nevada Guard officials predict guardsmen will be able to drill on the last weekend of September in order to receive their paycheck.

The Guards function as reserve armed forces and can be activated by the president for U.S. military action or called out by their governors to help with natural disasters or civil unrest. Ohio Guard members were called last month to help with water purification and delivery during a drinking water emergency in the Toledo area, while Missouri National Guard members went to Ferguson to help deal with violent protests after a policeman shot a black teenager.

The Kentucky National Guard had firing practice planned that it will try to get done at the end of the month, said spokesman Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht.

Drills have been postponed and pay delayed in past years during federal government shutdowns or because of budget cutbacks.

“We’re used to these obstacles and short-notice changes,” said Capt. Will Martin of the California National Guard. “It’s something we’re learning to navigate.”

Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth, adjutant general of the Georgia National Guard, said he and other Guard leaders were unhappy with a lack of warning about the shortfall.

“There are definitely some unhappy adjutants general and I’m one of them,” he said .

With wire reports