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Shutdown ‘throws a wrench’ in Hawaii Guard’s weekend training plans

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Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers training at Schofield Barracks.

Another government shutdown — even a short one — has particularly bad timing for the Hawaii National Guard, which has its once-a-month drills this weekend.

More than 4,500 Hawaii Army and Air Guard soldiers were expected to train Saturday and Sunday.

However, even with the specter of another shutdown, officials here were notified that more than 2,000 Hawaii Air Guard personnel will be “excepted,” meaning they are considered essential and will drill, Hawaii National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Chuck Anthony said today.

But as of Thursday night, that essential status did not apply to more than 3,000 Hawaii Army Guard soldiers, meaning those citizen-soldiers could see a cancellation of their training with a shutdown. “We’re still awaiting word from the Department of the Army,” Anthony said.

The differing status comes as tensions remain high with North Korea and the Trump administration still reportedly considering a limited “bloody nose” air strike on Kim Jong Un’s regime at some point to show how serious the United States is about denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

Anthony said about 2,000 Hawaii Army Guard soldiers were expected to drill Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and that training “hasn’t been canceled yet, but we’re coming up on a deadline for that.” Anthony expected that the soldiers would be informed by telephone starting around midnight Thursday about the weekend schedule.

The Hawaii National Guard rescheduled monthly training after a 2013 shutdown “but it’s still an impact on training (this time) because in some cases, firing ranges, for instance, at Schofield Barracks, are only available this weekend,” Anthony said.

The potential training delay for the Hawaii Army Guard comes as six units continue to prepare for a series of deployments this year to the Middle East and Europe that were announced in August.

About 1,000 of the Hawaii soldiers could deploy in a series of call-ups that would occur over about nine months starting in the spring, the Guard said previously.

Company B, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment, and its CH-47 helicopters is the first unit expected to mobilize for active duty and deployment to the Middle East, Anthony said.

Another government shutdown “basically just throws a wrench into the works,” Anthony said. “It’s quite an imposition on the training and readiness of a force that has to rely on these weekend drills to get their necessary training.”

About 800 federal technicians working for the Hawaii National Army and Air Guard were furloughed for a day late last month during a shutdown. They returned a day later on Jan. 23 with a short-term spending bill approved by Congress that expires at midnight.

About 1,500 of the 3,000 federal workers at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and elsewhere in Pearl Harbor with the Hawaii chapter of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers were similarly furloughed last month, said Jamie Hiranaka, president of the union.

Even if a shutdown is short, Hiranaka said “the amount of time it takes to plan for this shutdown and then execute the shutdown and then come back to work from the shutdown is just a waste of money — government money and time. Efficiencies on our mission get affected.”

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