Federal Government Shutdown Would Furlough Half of Full Time Iowa Guard Soldiers

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

WATERLOO, Iowa- The countdown is down to the final hours for a shutdown of portions of the federal government due to the budget wrangling. And that will mean no jobs temporarily on Tuesday for some federal employees in Iowa.


Many in eastern Iowa might notice the impact at the national recreational or historic sites like the Herbert Hoover birthplace and Presidential library and museum in West Branch. A federal shutdown would mean both sites won't open Tuesday with about 30 workers total furloughed.


But the biggest job impact in Iowa might fall on the members of the Iowa National Guard. Approximately 2,200 people work full time at Guard facilities around Iowa. Plans call for approximately half to temporarily lose their jobs if there is no budget agreement.


And percentagewise, some facilities will feel the cuts even more deeply. At the Army Aviation Support Facility #2, next to the Waterloo Airport, a total of 44 people work full time. If there is no budget deal with Congress, all would come in to work on Tuesday. Thirty six will learn they're on unpaid furlough. Eight will still have federal jobs despite the government shutdown.


Col. Greg Hapgood, chief public information officer for the Guard in Iowa, said "it's a very difficult decision to make. Those that are kept on are absolutely critical for safety, for health and for communicating with the public."


Soldiers from Iowa deployed overseas now, approximately 140, are "excepted" from shutdown cuts as are some other job categories. But routine maintenance work, such as soldiers do now on helicopters in Waterloo, would drop to zero.


Training would also be suspended, including the once-a-month sessions familiar to most Guard members.


Tim Eich, commander of the Waterloo unit, said he's told his soldiers and civilians for months to be prepared for what looks all but certain.


"We've told them for the last several months to prepare that they may be taking some unpaid leave," Eich said.


Sergeant 1st Class Dan Callahan said soldiers have certainly heard the advice. But, for some, hearing about it and truly being prepared aren't always the same.


"Part of the problem is people live paycheck to paycheck and things will get tight. We went through a furlough this spring and lost 48 hours of pay already. That makes things tight for a lot of people," Sgt. Callahan said.


The last government shutdown that sent Iowa National Guard members home from work was in the mid 1990's. That lasted two weeks and Congress reimbursed workers retroactively later. No one potentially impacted this time expects to see that money later.
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