Thursday, April 24, 2014

Impact of shutdown takes toll on Kansas’ citizen soldiers

10/18/2013

The toll of the partial government shutdown affected many people.

Count National Guard troops and those they serve among those subjected to the unfortunate fallout.

The toll of the partial government shutdown affected many people.

Count National Guard troops and those they serve among those subjected to the unfortunate fallout.

As of Thursday, 268 Kansas National Guard employees — about 13 percent of the Guard’s 2,100 employee force — reportedly remained furloughed. October’s weekend drill was canceled, and Guard members were to miss at least one paycheck. Recalled Guard members finally were able to return to work Friday after the government shutdown ended with a bipartisan deal.

So, in short, a budget standoff triggered in large part by Tea Party Republicans unable to accept the Affordable Care Act as law jeopardized training for troops we rely on during disasters and as part of the nation’s fighting force.

A significant number of part-time, citizen soldiers are needed at war. A good portion of the U.S. fighting force deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan came from the reserve ranks.

Guard members from the Sunflower State also responded recently to Colorado to help rebuild highways damaged by massive flooding, and have gone out of state to battle forest fires, help with hurricane recovery and aid in other emergencies.

Of course, Guard members always are needed when tornadoes and other disasters strike in their home state.

With far less opportunity to train than their active-duty counterparts, Guard troops and other reservists must make the most of the precious time they have during once-a-month, weekend drills and two-week summer camps critical for training and unit success.

Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, Kansas adjutant general, recently said the Guard lost readiness every day of the shutdown.

“The longer this goes on, the more degraded our capability becomes,” Tafanelli said. “Each day we lose a little bit of readiness.”

Readiness is defined as the ability of a military unit to accomplish its assigned mission. Training, naturally, is a key component of readiness.

As is morale. Suspended drill payments cannot help the morale of those part-time soldiers who need their Guard pay to make ends meet.

Members of Congress who didn’t take such fallout into account should be ashamed of their failure to compromise and ward off the shutdown. The dedicated men and women of the National Guard deserved better than being penalized by such selfishness in Congress.

— The Garden City Telegram

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