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Hundreds of Wisconsin Guard Members Face Furloughs

Hundreds of Wisconsin National Guard members will be furloughed for 11 days as part of the federal sequestration.

The sequester will affect roughly 700 people who are considered Department of Defense technicians, which range from pilots and mechanics to folks who work in finance and human resources. National Guard members recently received word of just how many furlough days, which had been rumored to be as many as 20.

They must take the 11 days of furlough by the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30.

"The key is we're maintaining readiness, but we have had to make significant adjustments to how we train and operate in order to maintain that capability," said Wisconsin guard spokesman Maj. Paul Rickert.

"It is a reduced capability. If you remove 20% of the people in your office, you won't have the same capabilities," said Rickert, who is among the people affected by the furloughs.

The majority of Wisconsin's 10,000 guard members will not be affected by the sequestration because they're state employees or they're considered active-duty military personnel, who are exempted.

But some people are government technicians -- people who have dual status, meaning their jobs require them to be a member of the Wisconsin National Guard, but during the week they're technically civilians working for the federal government even though they're in uniform.

It will not affect weekend guard duty and annual training for guard units.

At the 128th Air Refueling Wing based at Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport, furloughs are scheduled to start after July 8. Guard members assigned to the wing, which flies 10 KC-135 Stratotanker air-to-air refueling planes, will be able to go on active military status for the 11 days of furlough so they will not lose pay, said Senior Master Sgt. Jeff Rohloff.

Since the sequestration took effect, the refueling wing has cut back on outreach programs, including orientation flights for community members. It has shifted required touch-and-go flight training from Green Bay to Milwaukee to trim fuel expenses, it's not sending aircraft from the 128th to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh next month, and the unit's military honor guard can no longer travel outside the Milwaukee area for veterans' funerals, Rohloff said.

And with military flight teams such as the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels grounded by the sequester, the Milwaukee unit will no longer be needed to support local air show performers.

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Budget National Guard