Military recalls many, not all

Furloughed Fort Carson civilian workers make known their feelings in a public demonstration.

Furloughed Fort Carson civilian workers make known their feelings in a public demonstration.

The partial shutdown of government functions became temporary Monday, when thousands of federal employees were invited back to work in Colorado Springs and across the nation.

Local military bases and the Mountain Post were similarly affected, according to sources who work there.

Although no one has yet calculated the economic loss to the city of Colorado Springs from the government shutdown, thousands of people were out of work around the city.

The Washington Post listed Colorado Springs as the top city in the nation with the highest percentage of federal employees. According to the newspaper, 55,000 federal workers here represent 18.8 percent of the workforce.

Not all of them were furloughed, however.

Signed on Sept. 30, the Pay Our Military Act allowed the Pentagon to eliminate furloughs for employees whose responsibilities “contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a news release.

Peterson Air Force Base

At Peterson Air Force Base, 2,200 employees were furloughed, according to 1st Lt. Stacy Glaus, chief of public affairs.

Some 600 employees were excepted from the furloughs in order to ensure accomplishing essential activities on base, including duties revolving around national security, emergency services, health care, safety or protection of property, said Col. John Shaw, 21st space wing commander.

At all levels, the base felt the impact of the shutdown, and the previous funding status was “extremely disruptive to the Air Force,” Shaw said.

With or without the furlough, every day brings challenges.

“Nearly all of our 2,200 civilians who were furloughed have been recalled,” said Jared Marquis, technical sergeant at Peterson. “This is an unprecedented event that is out of our control. We continue to address the shutdown challenges, ensure our mission is successful and take care of our airmen.”

Air Force Academy

“We were contacted Sunday and told to bring back 950 of the 1,000 employees who were furloughed,” said Academy spokesman John VanWinkle.

Last week, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, superintendent of the service academy, said they were taking steps to mitigate disruptions to cadets and classroom instruction.

“The nature of the academy is that our civilian employees have specialties – things they are experts in, subjects they teach. We’ve responded by putting together some sections and cutting some classes.”

About 1,000 civilian employees were furloughed from the academy because of the shutdown – including professors, human resource professionals, attorneys and clerks. About 500 remained on the job.

“We’re not alone in this,” Johnson said. “Space Command had civilians furloughed.” Space Command is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, but has offices around the globe.

“This is unprecedented,” Johnson said mid-week during the shutdown. “We’re dealing with it as best we can, and we’re addressing issues as they come up.”

Longterm, the academy would have faced trouble with graduation requirements and accreditation, she said.

“We are an institute of higher learning and there are guidelines we must follow.”

Schriever Air Force Base

Schriever AFB had 392 civilians furloughed, all of whom were recalled Monday.

“We are glad to welcome back all of our civilians; however, it is not business-as-usual until we get an appropriations bill or continuing resolution,” said Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes.

“It’s certainly distressing for them to have to suffer another furlough,” said Col. William Liquori, 50th Space Wing commander, of the civilians. “It creates uncertainty and a disrupting financial effect but, every member of the team is important regardless of their status under the furlough, and we will continue to do our mission during this difficult time.”

Military operations continued on, “especially those things essential to national security, safety of human life and protection of personal property. And we’ll continue to do our mission throughout this difficult time,” Liquori said. “The absence of appropriations is disruptive to the Air Force, and Schriever is no different.”

Fort Carson protest

Last week, around 30 men and women gathered outside Gate 1 of Fort Carson to protest the shutdown. As truckers and others drove by, they honked enthusiastically, and protesters responded with shouts and screams of agreement.

Alex Nguyen, who carried a protest sign, works as an administrative assistant. One of the 1,000 civilians furloughed at Fort Carson, she is also a disabled veteran, which she called a “double whammy.”

If the shutdown lasts longer, Nguyen said, “I don’t know how I’m going to support my three kids. If I can’t pay my bills, the first thing to go is my mortgage.”

Derrick Knight was not furloughed from his position as a physical evaluation board liaison officer.

“Nothing’s secure until they make a firm decision, not all these temporary fixes,” on the budget, Knight said.

Protester Albert Rivera, a dental lab technician at Fort Carson, said, “It’s tragic Congress can’t fund the government.” Although Rivera was not furloughed, he said, “It’s absolutely terrible, not only for my family, but for the town.”

Rivera’s department contains 25 to 30 civilians working at each of four clinics and one surgery location. He said either four or five persons were furloughed from each location.

In an area of employment that Fort Carson drew down during the partial shutdown, Rivera said services there were limited to “the most extreme dental needs,” Rivera said. His wife, a nurse at Fort Carson, also was not furloughed.

Gerry Swanke, national vice president of American Federation of Government Employees, said he knows how families respond when “the paycheck doesn’t come” because his father had no job for five years.

“The blackmail in DC on ideology is exploiting the weakest among us,” Swanke said. From his point of view, Swanke said the real issue is the Affordable Care Act, a law that Congress passed three years ago. Swanke added that the issue isn’t bi-partisan; instead it’s purple, not blue or red.

Furloughing federal employees affects “all the things we take for granted — clean air, inspected food, clean water and care for our vets,” Swanke said. “They’re being exploited for ideology.”

Monday, Nguyen was one of the 1,000 civilians called back to work. Fort Carson Chief of Media Relations Dani Johnson said all civilians working on-post were called back to work. The commissary opened the same day as well.

There were small adjustments as shipments settled back to normal routines, she added.

Air Force Space Command

All 572 civilians furloughed from the headquarters in Colorado Springs were recalled, said Dean Miller, spokesman for the Air Force Space Command.

Maj. Brooke Brander said that across the command, 4,878 persons were furloughed, 1,065 exempted and 1,494 excepted. Exempted employees are employed from a separate fund, and excepted employees are “primarily performing duties for protection of life, national security, safety of persons, protection of property, medical care, acquisition and logistic support,” Brander said.

In total, the Air Force Space Command has more than 42,000 persons assigned to 134 locations across the globe.

The local headquarters employs 1,200 active duty military and civilians.

While nationwide the DoD civilian furlough has largely been eliminated, the local effects have yet to be calculated.

Amy Gillentine contributed to this story.