Furloughs Frustrate, Disappoint Minnesota Guardsmen

Updated: 07/16/2013 7:33 AM KSTP.com By: Mark Albert

At the Manke family home in Andover, Shawn Manke isn't used to being home on a Monday afternoon.

"I've never been laid-off a day in my life," Manke recalled in his living room. "And here I am, 44 years old, and I'm effectively being laid-off for the first time, ever."

Manke is a lieutenant colonel in the Minnesota National Guard who has spent 19 years in the military - the past decade in the Guard - and is now part of an "unprecedented" furlough of more than half of the Guard's full-time staff.

Manke and the roughly 100 aviation support technicians he oversees are being forced to take one unpaid day off each week until October, some of the 1,118 Guard members in all that are affected.

The furloughs began Monday.

"Yeah, I'm a little frustrated, a little disappointed," Manke said in an interview.

"Who would have thought working for a government and serving your country doing the stuff, that (the furloughs) would happen to you?" Manke wondered.

On Monday, clusters of desks inside the Guard's Capitol area headquarters in St. Paul sat empty, the soldiers assigned to them casualties of the cutbacks required after the two major parties in Congress could not agree on a replacement for the sweeping, automatic federal budget reductions known as sequestration that went into effect earlier this year.

While the furloughs affect roughly 10 percent of the Guard's 14,000 members, it impacts 54 percent of the full-time staff.

In all, the furloughed soldiers - from a brigadier general to a private, aircraft mechanics to human resources professionals - are required to take eleven unpaid days this summer, which equates to a 20 percent pay cut.

"It's absolutely possible these furloughs are going to have an impact on our readiness," said Lt. Col. Jon Lovald, director of human resources for the Guard. "There's only so much you can do."

Lovald said the Guard has made financial advisors available to help members manage the sudden loss in pay.

"There's a morale issue when the other half (of the full-time Guard staff) is not furloughed," Lovald said. "You know, how does that degrade the organization, when we're not being treated equally?"

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