Air base planes grounded

VIENNA – While civilian employees have returned to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, their operations are still limited; all flights are grounded, and an approaching drill day for about 1,400 reservists is up in the air.

“Although all YARS employees are accepted as Department of Defense employees, operations are still curtailed to include no flying operations and limited off-base duties,” said Maj. Brent Davis, chief of public affairs at the station.

Davis said he along with the 400 employees sent home last Tuesday after the federal government shutdown, have returned but “it’s not like it’s business as usual.”

“Perhaps the biggest thing is people aren’t going to see our aircraft,” he said.

The decision to bring back the employees was announced Saturday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, based on a Pentagon interpretation of a law called the Pay Our Military Act. That measure was passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama shortly before the partial government shutdown began.

It is Davis’ understanding that there will be back pay for the days the 910th Airlift Wing employees were forced to stay home. Their next payday is Friday, at which time he said they will see how everything is sorted out.

“It’s hard to put your finger on,” Davis said.

Currently, employees can work on the C-130 Hercules aircraft in the garage and participate in online training programs. Davis said they also are still planning drill days for the Oct. 19 and 20, during which about 1,400 reservists visit the base for their mandatory monthly exercises.

Unless something changes before then, Davis said the reservists will be unable to complete necessary flying operations. He is expecting that the issue will be resolved by Oct. 17 when the national debt ceiling is expected to be reached, but it will depend on the actions of Congress.

Right now they are just going “day to day,” without the ability to pay bills or even appropriate for fuel costs. The 910th had been operating with mandatory furloughs once a week over the summer to save the Defense Department money. The move was estimated to save the air station about $2 million.

The military’s 1.4 million active duty personnel remain on duty.