Maryland National Guard troops activated for COVID-19 response and civil unrest went without June paychecks in a series of administrative failures, a Maryland National Guard spokesman said Thursday.
Guard leadership is aware of the issue and is working to resolve it, said Capt. Ben Hughes, a Maryland Guard spokesman. "There were some delays" in getting pay out on time, he added.
Hughes said the Guard is trying to determine "who might be missing out because of paperwork" involving order extensions and authorizations under state and federal guidelines.
There are no initial estimates of how many troops missed paychecks, Hughes said. But Steven Beynon, a sergeant with "A" Co., 1-175 Infantry Regiment, said he knows of 60 to 70 soldiers in his battalion who missed June 15 paychecks.
Guard members usually receive pay on the 1st and 15th of the month.
"No one in my company has been paid" for June 15, said Beynon, who is also a reporter for Stars & Stripes.
"It was shocking when we weren't paid," he said. "There wasn't any warning to it.
"The Army is all about taking care of soldiers," Beynon said. "This is not taking care of soldiers."
Guardsmen have left their civilian jobs in all 50 states to respond in unprecedented numbers to the nation's call to combat COVID-19 and to back up local law enforcement where needed. In early June, more than 120,000 of the total of about 450,000 National Guard members had been activated under state and federal authorizations, and on overseas deployments, according to the National Guard Bureau.
A spokeswoman for the bureau said it was unaware of pay problems in Maryland or other states. There was no immediate response from the bureau after the Maryland Guard confirmed the pay issue.
"I don't think anybody feels worse than the people in the chain of command of the Maryland National Guard," said John Goheen, a spokesman for the National Guard Association of the U.S.
"Everybody who has ever worn the uniform has probably experienced a pay problem," he added. "You hate to hear this.
"This has not been the easiest operation to administer," Goheen said, referring to orders for 30- or 31-day activations by states and Title 32 federal call-ups, and the various benefits and housing allowances that come with them.
In several roundtable discussions with defense reporters, state National Guard adjutant generals have consistently stressed the importance of timely pay for Guard members activated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a roundtable Monday on preparations for the hurricane season, Air Force Maj. Gen. James Eifert, the Florida adjutant general, said many Guard members activated during the pandemic had been laid off from their civilian jobs and they viewed the activations as "an opportunity for them to continue making a paycheck."
The pay and benefits issue for activated Guard troops came to a head in May when the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced a June 24 "hard stop" to the deployments of thousands of Guard members called up under federal orders.
The June 24 deadline would have left the troops one day shy of the 90 days needed to qualify for a range of retirement and education benefits.
In a May 20 statement, Rep. Max Rose, D-New York, a decorated Army National Guard captain, said, "Ending orders one day short of a deadline for National Guard soldiers to receive benefits for their heroic sacrifices is the definition of heartless."
On June 3, President Donald Trump signed an order extending the deployments of National Guard members on missions supporting FEMA through Aug. 21.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.