Government gridlock worries civilian workers at Moon's 911th Airlift Wing
By Bobby Kerlik
Published: Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
First came the possibility of the closure of the Air Force Reserve's 911th Airlift Wing in Moon last year. Then came government furloughs this summer as part of the budget sequester. And now the government shutdown has civilian employees such as Bryon Coffman wondering when he'll be going back to work.
Coffman, 56, of Canonsburg works as an environmental health technician at the 911th. If the shutdown becomes lengthy, he might have to pay his bills with some of his savings earmarked for a cruise next year to celebrate his 40th wedding anniversary.
“I'll probably have to dip into that, depending on how this goes,” Coffman said. “(My wife) always wanted to go on a cruise. Right now it seems we might have to put that on hold. We may have to go for our 41st anniversary instead.”
Coffman is one of thousands of federal government workers across the region who spent Wednesday away from work while gridlock in Congress continued to delay passage of a budget.
Capt. Shawn Walleck, public affairs officer for the 911th, said 90 percent of the civilian employees were sent home on Tuesday, but security personnel and others remained. Officials have said more than 300 civilian employees work at the base. Workers contend with added pressure of an anticipated fight to keep the base open sometime next year.
Mike DeRiggi, a flight engineer who is president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2316 representing civilian employees at the base, said he was notified on Wednesday that training scheduled for this weekend was canceled because of the shutdown.
“I'm trying to stay positive, but at this point I know I'm not going to see a paycheck,” said Dan Daly, 41, of Bethel Park, a technician who works on the C-130 cargo aircraft at the base and pays child support for his three children.
“I'm more of a paycheck-to-paycheck guy, and if this goes two to three weeks, by the end of it, I'll be juggling utilities,” he said. “I canceled my cable before the last furlough to save money. There's not much fat to cut.”
Daly, who is the vice president of AFGE Local 2316, said talk of the base's closure last year “was stressful enough. This is another added stress. It's just one thing after another.”
The Air Force said in March that the base would continue to operate at least through September 2014. That was a change from a February 2012 announcement that the base would close as part of a national plan to cut spending and reduce its fleet of cargo planes.
The next challenge to the base's existence may occur if there is a national base realignment process in 2015, officials have said. The last Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 2005 initially recommended closing the Moon base, but it stayed open because of intensive lobbying by the area's congressional delegation, business and civic groups, and military retirees.
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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