10/04/13 — Shutdown hits Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, city coffers

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Shutdown hits Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, city coffers

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 4, 2013 1:46 PM

The numbers are in, and for the vast majority of civilians who work on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base -- and many local hotels, restaurants, gas stations and bars -- they don't look promising.

More than 70 percent of the Goldsboro installation's non-uniformed work force has been furloughed.

And the 916th Air Refueling Wing's monthly drill weekend -- an event that brings in hundreds of Reserve airmen from across the region and sees Wayne County hotels, restaurants and bars rake in thousands of dollars in profits -- has been canceled.

But the aftermath of the government shutdown has hit Seymour Johnson in other ways, too.

The 333rd and 334th Fighter Squadrons -- the Air Force's lone F-15E Strike Eagle training units -- have been grounded.

The Airman & Family Readiness Center, base commissary, library, tuition assistance office and education and training office have closed their doors.

Youth and recreation programs have been downsized.

Those required to use the base visitor center to access the installation are experiencing unusually long wait times.

The hits, Air Force officials said, just keep on coming.

But perhaps the most critical impact can be seen in the wallets of the hundreds currently out of work.

Of the 4th Fighter Wing's 370 civilian employees, more than 200 have been furloughed.

And on the Reserve side of the house, 180 of the 916th's 198 civilians were told to stay home.

916th Operations Group Commander Col. Caroline Evernham put the impact of the shutdown into perspective.

"We have young families who have no idea when their next paycheck will be coming, and worse than that, we have employees who are sick, or on leave taking care of terminally ill parents," she said. "We have at least one civilian who is in the hospital undergoing cancer treatments. All those employees just lost their paycheck. There is nothing that I know of that we can do to keep the money coming for them.

"Along with that, our commissary is completely shut down, our airmen's tuition assistance for schools has stopped, and many of the welfare programs on base that our airmen rely on have ceased."

What hasn't ceased, however, is the need for both the 916th -- and its active-duty counterpart -- to continue their mission -- whether they are doing so with a reduced force or not.

"Deployments don't stop, and we won't stop doing the job," Evernham said. "We will continue to perform the mission."