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Defense furloughs include New York National Guard technicians at Fort Drum

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FORT DRUM — As furloughs begin across the military this week, dozens of New York National Guard technicians doing maintenance work and supporting unmanned aircraft at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield will take unpaid leave days over the next few months.

A total of 73 technicians working on post, who as a condition of their employment are members of the service, will face 11 furlough days between now and the end of September. The workers primarily are responsible for maintaining equipment and vehicles used by other guard units when they come to Fort Drum for training.

The local furlough days will be spread out across the week.

“The facility will be manned, but some things may be held off,” said Eric Durr, guard spokesman. He said July and August are popular times for other guard units to come to the post for annual training.

Also affecting the post are the furloughs of 240 technicians from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, of which an unspecified number work at Fort Drum’s airfield supporting the use of MQ-9 Reaper aircraft.

The aircraft is flown remotely by the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing, with workers at the Drum airfield responsible for the maintenance and takeoff of the aircraft before transferring control to training pilots at the unit’s home in Syracuse.

The New York National Guard furloughs are not included in the count of approximately 1,800 civilian workers attached to the post’s operations who also have 11 furlough days.

The local furloughs are a small part of the 1,750 New York National Guard furloughs across the state, which the service said will save the Defense Department about $4.5 million.

With about 440 technicians furloughed among Fort Drum, Syracuse and other area installations, the guard said in a news release that the Central New York region had the second-largest contingent of furloughs in the state, behind only the Capital Region, with about 490 technicians.

Other cost-cutting measures taken on by the state guard include reductions in training, flying hours and training exercises and some medical exams.

The furloughs stem from defense budget cuts linked to the congressionally approved sequester OK’d earlier this year.

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