FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) - More than 650,000 employees with the Department of Defense are going to see a 20 percent reduction in their income for the next 11 weeks.
People are forced to take one day off, since the Department of Defense is trying to meet budget cuts required by sequestration. The Fort Benning Commissary will be closed on Mondays from July 8 to September 30. The end date of the furloughs can be shortened and changed, but it is also not promised.
Taking a forced day off without pay also means longer waiting lines to receive patient care service, prescription and medical appointments. Customers are advised to plan accordingly to access these services.
Fort Benning's public information officials explained that they had furlough days before, but they only lasted a day. This is the first time Fort Benning has ever experienced extensive furlough days. Eleven weeks of furloughs worried many commissary employees, since their paycheck might not be as much as they used to be. However, Warrior Outreach president and retired Command Sergeants Major Samuel Rhodes said Fort Benning did a tremendous job preparing for the furlough days.
"I believe that they did a great job. Fort Benning and Army Nationwide gave people enough time to prepare for it. This did not just happen out of the blue," Rhodes explained. "I understand that people experience different obstacles and challenges due to furloughs, but there was a purpose to all this. We have a huge national debt, and the government is trying to fix it. Of course there are more reasons as to why we are going through this furlough, but I believe it's not anything to panic about. It is something that we need to understand and try to move on to the best of our abilities until the furlough days are over."
Rhodes added to say that this was only temporary, and people should not worry about it. Major General Ken Leuer, retired U.S. Army, said this is his first time witnessing a furlough. Although it does not affect him, he wanted to encourage other commissary workers to soldier through as well as they can.
"This is certainly going to decrease paychecks for thousands of employees, but I want to encourage them to think of this as another mission," Leuer said. "Fort Benning has a great system, and it is led by great leaders. I am sure this is all going to be over even before the full impact will be felt. Things will go back to normal sooner than we all think."
However, Leuer explained that his only fear of this extensive furlough is that a similar type of measure might be followed by this. He explained that another round of furloughs could occur next year.
The furlough days will affect 170 commissary employees but thousands of other civilian employees at Fort Benning as well.