With talk of a budget deal that would end the government shutdown looking more real Wednesday, Army Reserve and National Guard officials are focused on getting their people back into drill status and on the job.
Nearly 500,000 Army Reserve and Guard members were affected when the Defense Department went into shutdown mode on Oct. 1. Across the U.S., more than 400,000 Guardsmen and more than 75,000 Reserve soldiers lost drill and training hours and the money that went with it.
For Army Reservists, alone, this totaled more than $46 million, according to Capt. Eric Connor deputy chief of media relations for the Army Reserve Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Now they're hoping Congress will pass a budget so that they can reverse the last 16 days of the shutdown's impact.
"Everything is preliminary," Connor said, but the command's operations and training directorates are working on plans "all based on the shutdown ending and appropriations made, but it's in the early phase."
"One of the things we're looking at now is creating opportunities for those soldiers to make up those drills and reschedule training," he said.
The shutdown also put a dent in the Reserve's ability to transport parts and equipment, leaving those Reservists who have been on duty to work with what was on hand and not always what they need.
"Once appropriations come through we can get moving on these things again," Connor said.
For Army and Air National Guard troops, getting back to normal -- or some semblance of it -- will not just be a matter of a fully funded Defense Department. Drills and training will not resume without that budget, but those schedules are products of state governors and their adjutant generals, said Maj. Jon Craig, spokesman for the National Guard Bureau in Washington, DC.
So even though a passed budget would immediately spur a recall, the states would be scheduling return to work.
Like the Reserve, the Guard wants to see its soldiers and airmen recover the pay lost when the shutdown saw their work and training weekends scrubbed.
"In the past what's happened is that the Defense Department and the director of the National Guard and the states' governors have all looked to make up the training," Craig said. "It's not guaranteed, but they've looked for opportunities to provide the training that was lost."
Lawmakers were eager to take the military off the table during negotiations to get a budget through quickly. To do so, Congress passed the Pay Our Military Act, which provided for the active duty forces but did little for the reserve components.
Drill and training weekends were curtailed or suspended unless it was considered an "excepted" activity -- something deemed critical for national security or the safety of people and property.
The executive director of the Reserve Officer Association said on Tuesday that the failure to include the Reserve and Guard in the legislation not only harmed military readiness, but was an insult to those servicemembers.
"For the last 12 years, the Reserve and Guard have been mobilized more than 883,000 times -- 330,000 of them more than once," retired Marine Maj. Gen. Andrew Davis said during an event at the World War II Memorial in Washington. "These men and women also responded to help their fellow citizens during natural and ecological disasters such as hurricanes, flooding and oil spills," he said. "Yet, after returning from war or disaster, they feel they are being overlooked, making them feel [they] are just second class warriors."
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