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July 26, 2013 09:55 PM

South Dakota Air Guard Furlough Frustrations

Sioux Falls, SD

Members of the South Dakota Air National Guard are facing some financial turbulence ahead of furloughs that begin next Friday. 

250 members of the 114th Fighter Wing will lose a quarter of their pay. The furloughs, which will run through September, are part of the federal sequestration budget cutbacks. 

South Dakota guard members have known for weeks that the furloughs were coming and they're doing their best to lessen the impact once those furloughs arrive.

Making sure Air Guard fighter jets get into the sky safely is all part of the daily duties for maintenance crews at the 114th Fighter Wing. While rapidly-approaching furloughs are forcing the crews to tinker with their nest eggs.

"Either try to put some savings away, cut some costs some other places, so that would be the biggest burden for myself," Technical Sgt. Ryan Bak said.

Bak says he's considered seeking part-time work, but for now, he's not actively looking for a second job to hold him over.

"It's definitely going to be a change of pace that will probably hit once it hits on next Friday and we're not actually waking up and going to work in the morning," Bak said.

Bak and the other crew members work four ten-hour days each week. The furloughs will cut their schedule to three days a week.  So, they have to make the most of their time on-the-job.

"It will pick up a little bit, you'll have to get stuff ready just to make sure for the weekend in case something does come up over the weekend that you have to send a jet up, so you'll just have to be more prepared come Thursday, rather than Friday," Bak said.

The furlough frustrations are already felt here during a routine maintenance inspection of one of the engines on base.

"And as we made that phone call out to try to get some directions on whether that engine was going to require further maintenance or not, we got the sorry, we're not here today due to furlough," 114th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Russ Walz said.

There are no cutting corners when it comes to making sure the planes are ready to fly.  And there are no quick furlough fixes for guard members whose financial futures are up in the air.

"Obviously, it's on your mind, you're taking a 25 percent cut for the next two months, so it's there.  But you still got a job to do, so obviously, just keep pressing forward," Bak said.

Working only three days a week would allow the air guard members to pick up part-time hours at another job. Statewide, the furloughs will affect 540 full-time employees of the South Dakota National Guard.

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