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Wisconsin's Air National Guard braces for sequestration impact

By Jessica Arp, jarp@wisctv.com
Published On: Apr 23 2013 08:08:48 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 24 2013 07:18:24 AM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

Cuts in pay and fewer flyovers are part of the local impact of the federal sequestration.  It hit in March and meant billions in cuts for the federal government.

While active-duty military has been exempted from the cuts, the Air National Guard in Wisconsin is bracing for the impact on its civilian technicians and possible changes to readiness.

The sequestration process now calls for 14 furlough days for civilian military personnel, part of cuts that also have curtailed flyovers nationwide and will cut into the travel, training and modernization budget of the 115th Fighter Wing.

Col. Jeff Weigand says flying hours have been preserved, but will be run four days a week instead of five.

"What really concerns me as the commander of the Fighter Wing is we have nearly 250 military technicians and our priority is to maintain combat readiness and to mitigate the effects to our technicians, and that's challenging," said Weigand.

Lt. Col. Matt Eakins oversees aircraft maintenance on the 115th's F-16s.  The furlough may soon take him away from that job one day a week.

"Every day you're out is another opportunity that you've lost to be ready to do your job," said Eakins.  "So I think the reason the public should care is because those families are distracted."

Eakins says it could be a big financial blow to some families.

"In 17 years, 11 of those on active duty, you didn't worry about where the paycheck was coming from," said Eakins.  "It has never been this close to being personal."

That blow comes to soldiers and families after returning just weeks ago from two months overseas.

"You just don't feel the appreciation for what you do when something like that goes on," said Eakins.

Since the unit just returned from that mission to Africa, it won't go on another deployment for a year.  Weigand is hopeful the cuts are resolved or restored to allow training and preparedness to increase before that mission happens.

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