Beale may lay off workers
Civilian and military workers at Beale Air Force Base could be laid off in the near future.
A Grass Valley man on Monday told The Union he expects to be laid off by October but was afraid to use his name for fear of retaliation. He said 15 other civilian firefighters and three military fire personnel were given a briefing recently on how the reduction program would work. He took it as a sign he is going to lose his job.
“I have 30 years service and I can retire, but I’m only 48 years old. I’ll have to go find another job,” the man said Monday. He said other Air Force-base jobs could be available around the nation, but he wasn’t interested because he had already moved to Beale in 1999 from McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento just before it was closed.
“He’s not losing his job, he’s losing his location,” said Capt. Mike Andrews at Beale. “He’s getting a pretty good deal” compared to 25,000 active duty airmen who have been ordered to leave the service since 2004 under the Force Reduction Program.
Andrews said he and many other full-time members of the military also are vulnerable to layoffs – but with no offers of jobs elsewhere or retraining.
“He was offered an option, but folks in uniform are being asked to get out of the Air Force” and sometimes are ordered out, Andrews said.
Air Force reductions
About 5,500 officers throughout the Air Force could be jettisoned by the lay-off plans this year. The Air Force is looking at cutting 31,000 personnel overall by 2009, according to the Air Force’s official Web site.
The Grass Valley man said he was told by base personnel managers that the cuts were to allow the Air Force to increase spending on weapons systems.
But Andrews said, “It’s not paying for a weapons system. It’s helping to modernize the Air Force fleet. We’ve got to get some newer airplanes. Currently, the average Air Force plane is 26 years old.”
P.J. Yandell, a human resources officer at Beale, said 200 civilian jobs at the 940th Air Refueling Wing at the base also could come under the reduction program. She is currently working on numbers for that possibility. The wing is manned by civilians and “weekend warriors,” reservists who do duty on Saturdays and Sunday.
Yandell said the firefighters who were recently briefed might be able to relocate to other bases. About 36 civilian firefighters work at the base, but she was unsure how many more are uniform military.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and other public area firefighting units have been informed that seasoned firefighters could be available soon from their force, Yandell said.
In the meantime, the Air Force Times reported in mid-February that cuts under the force reduction program could be rethought. The program already was in gear when President Bush asked for 92,000 troops for the Army and Marines and when the 21,500-troop surge recently took place in the Iraq war.
That has made top Air Force officials realize that more flights would be needed in the near future to support all those new troops, the Air Force Times said. The Union was unable to locate anyone at the Pentagon after business hours Monday to comment.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail email@example.com, or call 477-4237.
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