FORT HOOD — While officials continued to emphasize the minimal impact of the government shutdown on post services, signs of closure could be seen all around Fort Hood on Tuesday.
Family readiness support assistants sent final emails to the families and commands they support; civilians in the public affairs office handed the reins over to soldiers from units across post; annual celebrations were canceled; and the commissary shelves emptied as payday crowds filled the aisles before the stores would close indefinitely today.
“We are hurting a little bit, but we’ll be OK,” said Col. Matt Elledge, garrison commander, in an interview with the online Fort Hood Radio.
About 1,140 of the 6,000 Defense Department civilians employed at Fort Hood were given furlough notices and sent home Tuesday morning, he said. The remaining mission-essential employees continued to work and will receive pay during the shutdown, in accordance with the “Pay Our Military Act,” a bill signed into law late Monday by President Barack Obama.
These mission-essential personnel are employees whose jobs impact life, health and safety, as well as support the deployment and redeployment of soldiers. Training also will continue, Elledge said.
The two Fort Hood commissaries were open Tuesday to reduce perishable inventory, but will close today until the shutdown ends. Nearly 160 people work at the two stores, as well as dozens of others who depend on tips earned by bagging groceries.
Elledge also made the decision to cancel Friday’s annual Oktoberfest celebration hosted through Fort Hood’s Family and Morale, Recreation and Welfare.
“The furlough of employees along with the few personnel remaining fulfilling life, health and safety requirements resulted in simply not enough manpower to meet the requirements for the setup and operation of an event of this magnitude,” said Maj. Adam Weece in an emailed statement.
Weece, public affairs officer for the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, is filling in for civilian personnel furloughed from the III Corps office. About 7,500 people attended last year’s event.
If the shutdown lasts past this week, services, including medical, will have to be re-evaluated, Elledge said.