The Unit Training Assembly for the Arkansas National Guard and the 188th Fighter Wing scheduled for this weekend in Fort Smith has been cancelled because of the government shutdown, according to Maj. Heath Allen.
Allen said there is no funding for the monthly training at this time.
The delay impacts nearly 10,000 guardsmen across the state, according to Maj. Matt Snead.
The lapse in appropriation also required the Arkansas National Guard to furlough approximately 1,100 employees. More than 330 state employees of the Arkansas Military Department, whose positions are tied to federal funds, were also furloughed.
Local guardsman Brian Furr calls the cancellation “scary” because the as the 188th transitions from A-10s to drones, he and others need additional training for their upcoming mission. Since drills are only held once each month, Furr said attendance at the trainings is crucial.
“When we get activated or say deployed, we have to do our job just as well as those who do it everyday,” said Furr. “We get one weekend a month to do that, and this is one less weekend we’re going to get to train.”
Monday the President Obama signed into law H.R. 3210, “Pay Our Military Act”, which protects military pay for those on active duty.
According to Snead, it is not clear that the law applies to National Guard technicians or National Guard inactive duty training.
“I hope Congress will consider adding the National Guard to this statute,” said Maj. Gen. William D. Wofford, the Adjutant General of Arkansas. “It shouldn’t mean pay some of our military; it means pay all of them.”
Rep. Tim Griffin said Wednesday he expects the House to pass a bill to fund the guard and reserve. The bill will then be sent to the Senate.
The shutdown is also affecting a celebration that was slated for the weekend. The 188th 60th Anniversary Celebration will be moved to Nov. 2 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the base. The event is for current and former unit members and their families, as well as guests such as local leaders and congressional delegates. It is not open to the public.
Allen said they decided to move the event to a weekend when the guard members would be on base for drill, as well.
Members of the Arkansas National Guard are encouraged to stay in contact with their units, monitor local media outlets and the Arkansas National Guard Facebook site at www.facebook.com/arkansasnationalguard, during the duration of the shutdown.