The government shutdown being fought in Congress is starting to hit South Carolina’s military readiness at home.
Thousands of S.C. National Guardsmen won’t be drilling this weekend because the federal dollars that fund most of the staff and troops were cut off Oct. 1.
The exact number of soldiers involved wasn’t available, but there are more than 11,000 Guardsmen in the state, and most of them are affected.
For the lowest-ranking soldiers, it means losing between $150 and $250 in pay.
One major exception are members of the Air Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing based out of McEntire Joint National Guard Base in the Midlands. Because some of them are about to be deployed, they are exempt from the shutdown and will continue training, including flying and maintaining their fleet of F-16 jets.
But for the ground troops, thousands will stay home rather than pursue field duty, vehicle maintenance, weapons practice and classroom training.
“Obviously it’s going to be a hardship,” S.C. Guard Sgt. 1st Class Joe Cashion said Thursday. “Hopefully they still have their traditional jobs Monday through Friday.”
Guardsmen’s salaries and benefits are based on a variety of factors, including rank and participation.
While some units are rescheduling their duties for later this month, if the Washington gridlock goes on for the long haul then armories around the state and Lowcountry would continue to stay dark.
Late Thursday, however, there was some movement in the House of Representatives, where lawmakers approved legislation, by a 265-160 vote, aimed at partly lifting the shutdown by paying National Guard and Reserve members. Senate Democrats made it clear, however, that they will not agree to reopen the government on a piecemeal basis.
Around Charleston, the effect will be noticeable. Lt. Col. Lawrence Miller, administrative officer with the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade that is headquartered at The Citadel, said 788 soldiers are affected by the stand-down.
Among the drills they would have participated in this weekend were a medical readiness exercise, some all-hazard training, and a change of command ceremony at Fort Moultrie that was expected to draw at least 800 people.
While events are canceled this weekend, the Guard still could be quickly activated in the event of an emergency, such as a hurricane or other natural disaster.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.