Government shutdown stops some services, pay at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield

Government shutdown stops some services, pay at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield
Published: Jan. 20, 2018 at 1:15 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2018 at 8:38 PM EST
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FORT STEWART (WTOC) - Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield is stopping some services "to comply with the legal and regulatory requirements of operating in the absence of appropriations" because of the federal government shutdown.

Christopher Fletcher, director of public affairs, said there are approximately 25,000 soldiers and civilian employees who work or are stationed at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, and none will be paid while the government is shutdown.

Jessica Benavides and her husband retired Sgt. 1st Class Joe Benavides are two of thousands of military members who depend on federal dollars to survive.

"All of our income," Jessica said. "My disability, his disability, his retirement and then his current salary because he's a military contract worker who does VA benefits advising on Fort Stewart."

Department of the Army civilians and contractors will be furloughed during the shutdown, but Fletcher said all should report to work on Monday, Jan. 22. Those designated to be furloughed will be officially notified then, and they will be sent home.

Fletcher said there are approximately 5,000 civilian employees working on Fort Stewart, and most will be furloughed. He said it is too early to estimate an exact number.

Joe is on temporary duty in Baumholder, Germany, and, for now, he said he can work because his base his operating. He knows others aren't as lucky.

"There are some people in my company who won't be able to go to work because their installation will be closed," Joe said. "You know, I just happen to be in an area right now where the installation is going to stay open."

Military personnel, non-appropriated fund employees and exempt employees are not subject to furlough, and a limited number of pre-designated Department of the Army employees will continue operations and provide installation support, according to a news release sent Saturday.

"The Army will continue to provide for the nation's defense despite the reduced contributions of its civilian workforce," Fletcher said in the release.

Jessica said, "It's really is stressful to know that some of your friends are going to face some difficulties. A long pay period just really affects them a lot, and so there's going to be some struggles going on."

Military members are paid on the first and and 15th of each month, and Joe said budgets are often crafted around those paydays.

"There's a lot of planning that goes into this type of process," he said. "When I was first getting out of the military, I retired back on March 1, 2012, and I didn't get my last active duty paycheck until like the 14 or 15 of March. And I usually got paid on the first. I had been saving money for a whole year for that moment in time when I wouldn't be able to receive a check from the Army."

Jessica said families often buy groceries on those dates as well.

They're thankful they had a plan in 2012 and still have an emergency savings now. They hope this reminds other families dependent on government funds about the importance of having a backup plan.

"If this really affects you this time, then the best thing is to always, from here on out, start saving, so that way you can have a reaction plan," Jessica said. "That's why like I'm not overly stressed about it because [Joe] always has a plan. We can't always rely on the government to do what they need to do because they're not always going to agree. And that can affect us at the end of the hill, you know? So, they just have to save up, so that way next time, it's not going to be as rough."

Military members are retroactively paid for days missed after the government is no longer shut down.

Fletcher said the 3rd Infantry Division's ability to deploy soldiers will remain in tact, and the 1st Armored Brigade will continue deployment activities as scheduled.

A number of installation services will also be impacted by the shutdown, including:

  • Army and Air Force Exchange Services
    • All main exchanges and shoppettes will operate with normal hours, no degraded service.
  • Commissary
    • Commissaries will be open normal hours until Wednesday. Leaders and management will reassess at that time.
  • Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security
    • Functions continuing: Training support to 1st Armored Brigade and other deploying organizations; airfield operations support for deployment and redeployment; installation operations center; mobilization planning and support.
    • Functions stopping: Visual Information, security clearances and functions.
  • Directorate of Public Works
    • Functions continuing:  Plant operations; repairs; on-going contract oversight; housing; utilities; key environmental oversight.     
    • Functions stopping:  master planning, administration.
  • Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation
    • Functions continuing:  all fitness centers, Child Development Centers, community recreation, etc.
    • Functions stopping: None.
  • Directorate of Emergency Services
    • Functions continuing:  Fire department; law enforcement and the 911 call center.              
    • Functions stopping:  Limited Visitor Control Center operations from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. supporting commercial vehicle entry only; physical security inspections; weapons registration; fire inspections; fire administrative functions.
  • Army Community Services
    • Functions continuing: Army Emergency Relief; Pre-deployment symposiums; Family Advocacy; Victim Advocates.
    • Functions stopping: Exceptional Family Members Program; Soldier Family Assistance Center; Survivor Outreach Services, Employment Readiness; Relocation Assistance.
  • Directorate of Human Resources
    • Functions continuing (but limited):  Identification Cards, Retirements, Transition, in/out processing, Soldier for Life, Casualty Assistance, Army Substance Abuse assistance, Army Continuing Education.
    • Functions stopping:  none.
    • Other U.S. Army Garrison functions with limited capabilities: Religious Service Office; Public Affairs; Resource Management; Installation Safety Office.
  • Logistics Readiness Center
    • Functions continuing: Transportation services; maintenance services; Central Issue Facility at Fort Stewart.
    • Functions stopping: Ammunition Supply Points, Installation Property Book Office, Central Issue Facility at Hunter Army Air Field.
  • Network Enterprise Center
    • All functions will continue except routine communications work orders.
  • Mission Installation Contracting Command
    • Only providing essential contract support; all other functions stopping.
  • Civilian Personnel Advisory Center
    • All functions stopping.

The last time Fort Stewart had to adjust services due to a government shutdown was in 2013, according to Fletcher. That shutdown lasted 16 days from Oct. 1- Oct. 16, 2013.

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