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Fort Sill Civilians, Facilities Hit By Govt. Shutdown

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FORT SILL Okla_ The impact of the government shutdown hit home for roughly 2,300 civilian employees at Fort Sill Tuesday.

They were sent home and told they won't be getting paid or be allowed to return to work until the government funding problem is solved in Washington. That number represents about 80% of the civilian workforce on the post who have been forced to take furloughs.

All uniformed military personnel will work during the shutdown and still get paid. As for the others, everyone reported to work Tuesday, but those who were on the furlough list were given a notice to sign and a little time to wrap up work they'd started, before heading home.

"Those 2,200 or 2,300 departmental civilians have a critical job here at Fort Sill," Post Commander Major General Mark McDonald said.

McDonald said anything on post pertaining to fire, health, safety and security will still be open. Basic training will go on as scheduled.

"We are protecting that, and we are going to train those soldiers to standard," McDonald said, "So they are ready when they get to their first unit. They will do their basic and Advanced Individual Training."

McDonald said all other officers coming out of basic officer courses will also be trained.

"Some of our civilian instructors will be allowed to continue to teach," McDonald said. "It's called excepted, and they will only be allowed to teach if they are involved in our initial military training. That's our Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training and our Basic Officer Leader Courses."

The additional civilian instructors will not be allowed to work. This isn't the first furlough for many here in Lawton.

Randy Shears is an education counselor at the Truman Education Center on Fort Sill and said as of 11:30 AM Tuesday, he was officially furloughed until further notice. He said this is the second time this has happened this year.

"Last summer, it was structured," Shears said. "It was one day per week over a set number of weeks. We knew it was an unusual circumstance, so we kind of rolled with it, but this one… who knows."

When the government shut down 17 years ago, it lasted about three weeks.

"Three weeks without a job, without a paycheck… that would hurt a whole lot," Shears said.

General McDonald said more Department of Defense civilian employees will get furloughed as time goes on. These employees are exempted for a short period of time until they get their job transitioned over. Then, they will also come off the payroll.

General McDonald announced the commissary will be open Tuesday, so they can sell the perishable food items, but it will shut down Wednesday.  

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