Notifications of planned furloughs are expected to be sent out in the next couple of weeks to federal employees who work on Kentucky military installations as unions negotiate details of the impact of automatic budget cuts.
Thousands of federal employees who work at Fort Knox in central Kentucky and Fort Campbell on the Tennessee state line could face up to 22 unpaid days off work between April and September as part of cuts triggered on March 1. Union officials say they expect notifications to start being sent to employees in mid to late March.
Vicki Loyall is the president of local 2302 of the American Federation of Government Employees based at Fort Knox. She said employees there worry about paying bills and are considering cancelling their health insurance.
On the eve of automatic military budget cuts, Fort Campbell's garrison commander said the installation's 8,000 civilian employees could face up to 22 unpaid days off this year.
Col. David L. "Buck" Dellinger told reporters Thursday that Fort Campbell's leaders are making budget decisions sometimes on an hourly basis to prepare for $55 million in budget cuts scheduled to take effect on Friday.
The installation in southern Kentucky is hosting town hall meetings in the coming days with staff and soldiers.
Dellinger said they have to balance providing training for thousands of soldiers who are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan this year, while finding savings in areas like civilian employee salaries, maintenance and other operating costs.
With military budget cuts set to take effect Friday, Fort Campbell's leaders are preparing to give more details on furloughs facing thousands of civilian employees and local impact of those cuts on soldiers and their families.
Fort Campbell's commander Maj. Gen. James McConville has said more information will be provided in the coming days through town hall meetings. The installation's garrison commander, Col. David L. "Buck" Dellinger, is providing details on the local impact during a media briefing on Thursday.
The Pentagon faces a $46 billion budget reduction through the end of September and has warned that some 800,000 civilians stand to be furloughed without pay for up to 22 days.
More than 30,000 troops are based at Fort Campbell, and many are currently deployed to Afghanistan.
Soldiers serving in a combat aviation brigade at Fort Campbell are scheduled to arrive at the post on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line after completing a deployment to Afghanistan.
The soldiers arriving home on Friday are from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. The aviation brigade has been working in eastern Afghanistan since last year to assist U.S. and international troops.
Thousands of soldiers from Fort Campbell are deployed or are preparing to deploy this year to Afghanistan.
The Army's most elite aviation unit is proposing to allow women to fly the special operations helicopters used in missions like the one that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., and known as the Night Stalkers, wants to give women a trial as pilots and crew chiefs, pending congressional approval. The aviation unit is the first among Army special operations units to move toward less restricted roles for women as a part of military-wide review of gender exclusions for many combat jobs.
Women have been able to fly attack helicopters since the 1990s, and many women serve in aviation brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan. But previous policy barred them from special operations missions.
Fort Campbell is resuming its monthly memorial ceremony for 101st Airborne Division soldiers who have died as thousands of troops from the post on the Tennessee-Kentucky are currently serving in Afghanistan.
This month's Eagle Remembrance Ceremony on Wednesday will honor Pfc. Shane G. Wilson of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team and Spc. Patricia Horne of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade. Both died in 2012.
Wilson, a 20-year-old infantry rifleman from Kuna, Idaho, died Oct. 18 in Khost province, Afghanistan. Horne, a 20-year-old human resource specialist of Greenwood, Miss., died Aug. 24 in a non-combat-related incident in Bagram, Afghanistan.
The commander of an aviation brigade from Fort Campbell that is currently deployed said the Afghan security forces are becoming more capable both on the ground and in the air.
Col. Paul Bontrager, commander of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, briefed the media by teleconference on Monday on the brigade's first 100 days of its Afghanistan deployment.