Furloughs raise concern over MS National Guard disaster readiness

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Furloughs went into effect this week, right in the middle of hurricane season. Because of that, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and two other Gulf Coast governors have sent a letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to exempt the National Guard from those federal cuts. There is concern the furloughs will affect disaster readiness capabilities in south Mississippi.

Many people remember Mississippi National Guard troops wading through flood waters during Hurricane Isaac to pull stranded storm victims to safety. From natural disasters to the BP oil spill, military personnel have answered the call for help.

"We provide equipment, manpower, a lot of experience and expertise. A lot of our soldiers and airmen have deployed overseas. They bring those same skills back. When you're responding to something like Hurricane Isaac or Katrina, it's almost like being in battle," said Col. John "Hoss" Ladner.

Colonel Ladner is the commander of the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport. He said out of 1,400 air and army national guardsmen at that facility, 187 technicians are affected by federal furloughs. Those technicians are forced to take one day off a week from now until September, the most active part of hurricane season.

"So that means they're not going to be there to do the training, to help maintain equipment as much. That doesn't mean we stop. We continue on, but it has an impact," said Ladner.

Statewide, Governor Phil Bryant said the furloughs could reduce emergency readiness response by 20-percent. That's why he's urging the president to help states that are vulnerable to disasters.

"We appreciate his efforts. That would help us be even more ready," said Ladner.

Colonel Ladner wants to reassure the public that during an emergency, those affected by the furloughs can still be called to military duty.

"We've always responded magnificently. No matter what the case, we'll be there, so they can rest easy on that," said Ladner.

A spokesman said there are more than 12,220 Mississippi National Guard members in Mississippi. Of that number, 1,400 technicians are affected by the furloughs.

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