Local reservists training canceled due to shutdown

The parking lot of the LaPointe Army Reserve Center would normally be full this weekend with more than 160 soldiers from three states driving and repairing tractor-trailer fuel tankers, troop carriers and armored Humvees.

But the “battle assembly,” or drill weekend, has been canceled because there’s no money to train or pay reservists during the partial government shutdown.

For 705th Transportation Co. commander Capt. Larry W. Carter, a veteran of two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, it’s a situation he hasn’t encountered until now.

“As far as I’m concerned, our number one priority is maintaining our military readiness for this country,” said Carter, who has served 22 years in the Army.

The 705th Transportation Co. has more than 60 vehicles on the grounds of its center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and each drill weekend once a month soldiers from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky arrive to drive and maintain the big trucks to military training sites and log road time to prepare for the call if needed.

The impact of the shutdown on the unit “really deflates the soldiers,” Carter said. “The young guys, they get out here and they really look forward to moving the trucks.”

The federal budget stalemate has impacted more than 2,000 reservists in Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps units at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base alone. Statewide, the Air and Army National Guard have more than 16,000 Guardsmen facing time out of the drill hall and going without a monthly paycheck.

The Air National Guard 178th Fighter Wing in Springfield, with more than 500 traditional Guardsmen, is one of those units that has had to postpone training this month. “The uncertainty has been stressful,” said Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Stahl, a unit spokesman.

Federal lawmakers OK’d the Pay Our Military Act just before the partial government shutdown Oct. 1. The legislation kept pay intact for active-duty military service members and most Department of Defense civilian employees, but did not apply to traditional weekend reservists and Guardsmen, unless they were mobilized to active service. A companion bill, the Support Our Armed Forces Act, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, would pay reservists and Guardsmen.

Nearly each one of the 8,700 civilian employees furloughed at Wright-Patterson returned to work Monday after a three-and-a-half day furlough on the heels of six unpaid days off work this summer. The Ohio National Guard recalled all but six of 1,800 civilian employees who were also furloughed.

“Make no mistake about it, this government shutdown has had significant impact here in Ohio,” said James Sims, an Ohio National Guard spokesman.

While Guardsmen aren’t allowed to train, they could be called up to respond to an emergency, such as the aftermath of a tornado, or deployed on wartime assignments, Sims said.

The nation has about a $50 billion budget to pay, train and equip more than 1 million reservists who represented 43 percent of U.S. military forces in 2011, according to Defense Department figures. Reservists and Guardsmen have had significant operational roles in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, leaving families and civilian employers behind for months while in uniform.

Some reserve units perform daily missions the military relies on, such as the Air Force Reserve 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson.

The lack of training dollars has restricted the wing to fly two or three C-17 missions a week to support wartime operations, and both morale and readiness will be impacted if the shutdown continues, said Col. Stephen D. Goeman, wing commander.

On Friday, a flight crew was sent aloft so pilots could meet flight requirements of one landing a month, he said. The wing normally flies a dozen or more missions a week.

The loss of a weekly paycheck has hurt traditional reservists who do not have another job, Goeman added.

“That will be significant as we do have a fairly good percentage of our folks (who) count on their drill income,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll get out of this because it is painful.”

At the LaPointe Army Reserve Center, a second round of furloughs was stressful for Jacinta Asbrock. The 34-year-old civilian unit administrator who’s responsible to manage soldiers’ payroll, military orders and medical records, took another three and half days off without pay last week.

“Everything is tightened down at my household,” she said. “We just cut back.”

Her husband, Mark Asbrock, took time off his job to be with his wife during the furlough.

The Miami County mental health case manager, a staff sergeant in the unit, said the double furlough was painful.

“It was stressful,” he said. “They always talked about furloughs and shutdown, but we never thought it would come to that.”

Staff writer Andrew McGinn contributed to this story.

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