Covering Louisiana

Jul 9, 2013 11:38 PM by Steven Albritton

Furloughs Could Hurt National Guard During Hurricane Season

Starting this week, many soldiers with the Louisiana National Guard will be looking at less money in their paycheck. It's because of furloughs. Across the board mandatory budget cuts, known as the sequester, forced the federal government to cut back.

The furloughs will affect 1,000 full-time National Guard members, which is about 50% of Louisiana's national guard. Each of those soldiers will be furloughed eleven days over the next ten weeks, and will miss a total of 88 of hours of work and pay. The soldiers mainly affected are ones who work as maintenance technicians.

These furloughs come at a bad time for Louisiana. During hurricane season, it's the National Guard which is often the state's first line of defense.

"Our focus in the guard is taking care of our soldiers and protecting the state. So, we have to do both of those and we accomplish it," Lt. Col. William Rachal of the 256th said.

These soldiers work directly with heavy duty equipment, this could affect hurricane response.

"I think we've got some things that can help give us some flexibility and possibility mitigate some of those (problems), but there's no way around it we're losing 88,000 hours of efficiency so it's a potential for impact," Lt. Col. Rachal said.

If the governor does make the call to activate the National Guard, regardless of the furloughs, all will be called for duty.

"Whatever mission is given to us by the governor, all hazards, any kind of hurricane, support mission; we'll accomplish it," Lt. Col Rachal said.

To help make up for the the lost work time, part-time members of the guard will help make up some of the hours. A letter was sent out to the entire guard informing them of the furloughs. Officials say, this is only the first round of furloughs and soldiers will be notified if more are needed.

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