The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

October 3, 2013

National Guard cancels training

OTTUMWA — A senior military official in Iowa says for now, while many Iowa National Guard units will not have drill — or receive drill pay — an Ottumwa unit will continue to be paid.

"The 833rd is on active duty in Afghanistan, and all of those [positions] are protected," said Col. Greg Hapgood, the Iowa National Guard public affairs officer.

A few other positions are protected as well. A soldier assigned to "man the fort," so to speak, will still be paid at each qualifying armory.

"That soldier is what we refer to as our readiness non-commissioned officer, or NCO. They're a full-time employee. Other full-time employees are what we call active guard or reserve. The vast majority of those are not subject to furlough."

But there are more positions frozen than there are open. That's especially true among the average reservists and guardsmen who are having training put on hold.

"Those that are scheduled to drill this weekend, that's been cancelled," said Hapgood. "Until the shutdown is over, our hands are tied. We can't incur any expenses or pay anyone who would be drilling."

It'll be that way for about a week — to start.

"This weekend until the 10th. Then, after the 10th, we'll reassess," the colonel told the Courier. "If the furlough is over, we can possibly have [missed drills] later in October."

While units like the Iowa Army National Guard get their training, rank structure and other procedures from the U.S. Army, they are known as an Iowa asset. Why would a "federal" shutdown keep "state" units grounded?

"The guard has two chains of command ... with the Department of Defense primary, then the state," Hapgood said, adding that state units have the main mission of regularly training in combat preparedness so that the Pentagon knows they have reinforcements available quickly.

But there's another factor at play, he said.

"The funding to maintain the Guard is 97.5 percent from the feds. They call the shots."

However, he added, if there is a local disaster, the governor of each state still has the power, even during the federal shutdown, to call in National Guard troops.

— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark

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