According to James Schmidt, president of the American Federation for Government Employees Local 916, 2,900 Tinker Air Force Base employees are currently on furlough. There are 8,000 working until federal funding that is already in place runs out.
Greg Ross, an aircraft mechanic at Tinker and a disabled veteran, is one of those working without pay.
Ross, who has already gone through furloughs, said the recent lack of stability that is generally associated with government work is causing him and others to consider seeking employment in the private sector.
Ross also worries that the lack of services he and other mechanics normally provide will leave American service members serving overseas with less than optimal resources.
“The job that we do provides mission capable, mission ready aircraft to those troops who are on the ground that are over there fighting a war,” Ross said. “So, if we're not over here doing the scheduled maintenance for the aircraft that we're supposed to, then that limits the resources that can go and support our troops.”
While he believes that the Oklahoma National Guard will still be able to provide support to Oklahoma soldiers on the ground in combat zones, Col. Max Moss said Ross' concern is valid when applied to duties within the state.
“Where it can potentially correlate is, every time you see a helicopter or an F-16 or a military truck on the roads here in Oklahoma there are several federal technicians that have a significant hand in making that happen,” Moss said. “Without them turning wrenches and fixing equipment, our ability to respond in certain situations will be degraded.”
Moss said 700 National Guard employees, roughly one-third of their workforce, are currently furloughed. All of those 700 workers are federal technicians.