104th Fighter Wing cancels training over government shutdown - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

104th Fighter Wing cancels training over government shutdown

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The government shutdown continues to impact Western Mass. Several hundred employees at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield are furloughed. This isn't the only setback the base is facing.

It would be gearing up for a major training mission that was supposed to be taking place the weekend of Oct. 4, but because of the shutdown they said they were forced to cancel it.

What normally would be a busy day at the 104th Fighter Wing, is instead met with silence. Parking lots and roads remained empty.

The recent government shutdown has grounded things at the base.

Out of the 400 full-time employees, 260 are now furloughed.

Col. James Keefe is the commander of the 104th. He said those employees cover positions from pilots, to crew chiefs, to engine technicians.

"They're the ones who do the day-to-day maintenance on the jets," said Keefe.

And now that they're being forced to not work, the base has canceled the training mission.

Construction on the runway at Barnes has the f-15s stationed at Westover Air Reserve base in Chicopee, where they will sit unused.

"There are only 12 times a year that we train on weekends and now that's gone, so it affects our readiness and response," said Keefe.

Col. Keefe said more may be canceled if the shutdown continues.

And that worries him because the pilots could be decertified the longer they go without training.

Col. Keefe said that is a risk to national security.

"There's definitely an effect on the national defense on the country, when you get all of the technicians out of a guard unit or a reserve unit for that matter," said Keefe.

He said he hopes the standstill in D.C. will end soon so things can get back to normal at the base.

"We're hoping that this is short lived so we can get back out there and continue to exercise as we need to," said Keefe.

The 104th's F-15s at Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod is not affected by the shutdown and will remain on standby for any emergency.

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