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Sequestration furloughs affect Mitchell, Chamberlain Guard

Furloughs starting next month will affect 55 South Dakota National Guard employees in Mitchell and Chamberlain.

According to Terry Ommen, a Guard spokesman, 47 of the Guard's employees in Mitchell and another eight in Chamberlain will be forced to take unpaid days off beginning next month as a result of federal budget cuts.

The furloughs will require certain Guard employees to take 11 unpaid days off from Aug. 2 to Sept. 30. Employees affected by the furlough will lose nearly $4,200 in pay, or 20 percent of their annual paycheck.

The employees affected in the Mitchell area are mostly technicians working in the Guard's maintenance shops, Ommen said.

The furloughs are the result of government sequestration meant to reduce the federal budget deficit, Ommen said. The federal government intends to cut $1.1 trillion from the budget over the next 10 years. Ommen said 540 full-time employees out of the Guard's 958 employees statewide will be affected by the furloughs. "There are definitely some challenges from a morale perspective," Ommen said. Ommen said the employees affected by the furloughs understand the cuts are out of the Guard's control. "We're just working together to make sure we maintain a level of readiness to meet both our state and federal missions," he said.

Last year, the Guard relocated six units across the state to save money. Units in Platte, Winner and Salem were among those relocated. The Platte and Winner units relocated to Wagner and Rapid City, and the Salem unit relocated to Yankton.

No Guard employees in Wagner will be affected by the furloughs.