AUGUSTA — The Maine Army and Air National Guard have postponed weekend drills after learning this week that 406 employees have been furloughed because of the federal government shutdown that started Tuesday.
“The drill weekend that was to be held October 5-6, 2013 has been postponed,” Chief Warrant Officer 4 Mark Houdlette of the Maine Army National Guard said Thursday in an email interview. “A tentative date to make up this drill weekend has not been established.”
Sunday’s Freedom Salute for the 488th Military Police Company that returned in mid-July will still take place in Augusta, and four personnel from the 121st Public Affairs Detachment will be working to cover the event.
Although the Air Guard drill weekend is postponed, some who were scheduled to deploy in the near future will be at work, Houdlette said.
“There will be pockets of drilling guardsmen working this weekend to support upcoming mobilizations-deployments within the Maine Air National Guard,” he said.
The Maine Army and Air National Guard sent 406 members home on emergency furlough on Tuesday.
The breakdown of furloughed employees is 222 in the Maine Army National Guard and 184 in the Air guard, according to Peter Rogers, spokesman for the Maine Department of Defense, Veterans, and Emergency Management. The employees are stationed around Maine but most of the affected workers are from Camp Keyes in Augusta, the Maine Air National Guard base and the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Bangor.
Brewer Mayor Kevin O’Connell, who spent 24 years in the Maine Air National Guard’s 101st Air Refueling Wing and retired in February 2011 as a master sergeant, said Thursday that his friends in the Guard are frustrated.
“They’re all [complaining] on Facebook — they’re all [complaining] hard,” he said. “I’m still friends with a lot of them. They’re telling Congress to get their heads out of their [buttocks].”
“The biggest thing I heard was frustration,” he said. “Everybody is frustrated and it’s affecting their wallets.”
Weekend drills are important for two major reasons, O’Connell said.
“A — you need the training, and B — everybody counts on that paycheck,” said the Air Guard retiree, who was bringing home a $400 to $500 paycheck monthly at the end of his military career.
Even though he’s retired, the furlough is still an issue because all of the military commissaries are closed including the one in Bangor.
“Do you know how many people shop at the commissaries? All the retired people,” O’Connell said. “It’s cheap and it can save you a lot of money. Whenever I go in there, it’s 90 percent retirees.
“There is a domino-trickle down effect,” O’Connell said of the federal shutdown.