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Utah military employees back to work despite lingering government shutdown


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HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Ron Stonebreaker had 300 emails in his inbox when he returned to work Monday after a weeklong furlough due to the ongoing government shutdown.

"We know that we're doing things that are helping the nation and helping national security. We're just glad to be back as a team. All my folks had great attitudes this morning coming back," said the chief of the civil engineering design team at Hill Air Force Base.

Stonebreaker is among about 2,700 civilian workers the base recalled in light of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's liberal interpretation of the Pay Our Military Act, which Congress passed last week and President Barack Obama signed into law.

Also, all but 80 of the 1,200 Utah National Guard employees on furlough were back on the job Monday. Those who didn't return to work are in auditing and aren't covered in Hagel's order, said guard spokesman Lt. Col. Hank McIntire. He said he doesn't know when they would be back.

McIntire said uncertainty is the most difficult thing for guard members to deal with.

Though Stonebreaker is glad to be at his desk, he's wary of another budget deadline that could again hit federal workers. The government is due to reach its debt limit Oct. 17 and could be in default without an agreement in Congress.

"I hope our leadership has that in the forefront of their minds in Washington," he said. "I just hope everyone can do their jobs so that I can do my job as well. I want to continue to contribute, and the interruptions are causing some problems. I think they can be avoided if reasonable men can sit down and resolve this before the deadlines loom."


Stonebreaker, who has worked at Hill for four years, said he's still reeling from a furlough in the summer and had to dip into savings twice now to cover bills. He said he's not sure what his next paycheck will look like.

Stonebreaker said he has struggled to "presume positive intentions" as lawmakers point fingers and blame each other for the shutdown.

Col. Kathryn Kolbe, 75th Air Base Wing commander, said Hill relies on civilian and military personnel working together to get the job done.

"All of our civilians play an important role in accomplishing the Air Force mission, and we are grateful for their contributions and for their continued patience during this challenging time," she said.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, whose district includes Hill Air Force Base, said it's good to see people going back to work.

"That says something good for the defense of the country," Bishop said.

Contributing: Mike Anderson

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