Furloughed military workers return to work | NevadaAppeal.com

Furloughed military workers return to work

Steve Ranson
Naval Air Station Fallon public affairs officer Zip Upham speaks to Carson High School Navy Junior ROTC students who toured the control tower. Upham, who returned to work on Monday, was one of about 100 civilian employees placed on emergency furlough because of the impasse between Congress and the Obama Administration.

Furloughed civilians reported to work Monday at Naval Air Station Fallon, while about 583 military technicians and civilians statewide headed back to their jobs Tuesday with the Nevada National Guard.

This included between 90-100 employees with the Nevada Army National Guard in Carson City.

The Pentagon recalled on Saturday almost 350,000 furloughed civilian employees, who included military technicians, back to work this week. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel based his decision on a “liberal” interpretation of a bill passed by Congress last week to restore immediate pay to active-duty military who were not furloughed. Broad language in the bill also exempted Department of Defense employees from being furloughed if their jobs were tied directly to supporting the military.

Last week’s government shutdown and emergency furloughs for nonessential civilian employees focuses on the House Republicans not wanting to pass a budget that does not include a delay or defunding of Obamacare. The disagreement between the two major political parties has caused a stalemate; however, the U.S. Senate accepted a Republican idea from the House of Representatives late last week that would pay active duty military, some civilians and defense contractors. That action, according to Pentagon officials, expedited the interpretation of the bill to allow furloughed employees’ return to work this week.

For NAS Fallon public affairs officer Zip Upham, the emergency furlough hit “close to home” for the base’s top spokesman.

“We were called by leadership — the phone tree — and postings on Facebook,” said Upham, when he learned of the decision for about 100 employees to return to their jobs at the air station. “As far as I know, everyone except for one or two is returning.”

During the week Upham was gone, his parents-in-law came to Fallon to visit; however, Upham said he was happy to return to work.

“It’s frustrating to be told not to do your job,” said Upham, who has been NAS Fallon’s spokesman for 12 years. “You understand the mission and role and want to do it.”

One of Upham’s first duties upon returning to work on Monday was leading a group of 96 Carson High School Junior ROTC cadets on a short tour of the facilities including the air traffic control’s observation deck.

Upham said the situation appeared normal around NAS Fallon, especially with training.

“We have an air wing here training, and there has been no impact,” Upham said. “They should be here for another two weeks.”

Spokesman Dave Valdez of the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center confirmed training was not affected by the emergency furloughs although several federal civilian employees are still off.

Initially, the air station initially reported that all emergency services would not be affected; however, Upham said the top administration of the Federal Fire Department including the chief received emergency furloughs, but they were back to work on Monday as well.

Upham said the commissary will also re-open today after employees spent Monday restocking the store.

National Guard servicemen and women, along with other civilian employees, received word on Monday that they would return to work this morning.

A military technician works in a civilian job but is a drilling military member of either the Army or Air National Guard.

Maj. Dennis Fournier said the Nevada Military Department used its chain of command on Monday to recall about 583 federal technicians.

“Normal operations and support activities will resume with no impact on the Guard’s ability to respond to federal contingencies or state and local emergencies,” Fournier said. “The shutdown’s effect on the Guard has been largely transparent to the majority of Nevada’s citizens.”

Fournier said the Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) staff maintained regular business hours last week for all Nevada Guard offices and armories across the state by attending to administrative functions.

“The Nevada National Guard’s federal technician work force includes both military and civilian technicians who perform many support roles including personnel, finance, administration and maintenance functions,” Fournier added.

Because of the emergency furloughs, Fournier said last weekend’s scheduled drill for about 4,400 soldiers and airmen was postponed.

The Nevada National Guard includes more than 3,200 soldiers and 1,150 airmen. Fournier said the Nevada National Guard is one of the largest employers in the state with payroll expenditures for 2012 adding up to more than $105 million.