Brig. Gen. John Hort, 3rd Infantry Division deputy commanding general-maneuver, confirmed Monday that nearly all of Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield’s 2,400 civilian workers were back on the job.
During a news conference outside Fort Stewart’s commissary, Hort reminded reporters about 70 percent of Stewart-Hunter’s Department of the Army civilians were furloughed Oct. 1 with the beginning of the federal-government shutdown. He cited an Oct. 6 news release by the Department of Defense that authorized most DoD civilian employees to return to work. The release said the decision by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was based on the Pay Our Military Act, signed by the president the day before the shutdown.
According to the release, the largest category of civilian employees recalled “provide ongoing support to military members,” including “health care activities and providers, sexual assault prevention and response providers, behavior health and suicide prevention, transition assistance programs for military members in active service, commissary and payroll operations and family support programs and activities, among others”
Other recalled civilian employees whose work — if interrupted by a substantial lapse of time — would cause problems for service members, the release said.
These employees work in areas such as acquisition program oversight, contract logistics, supply chain management and intelligence functions.
“It’s great news to get our Department of the Army civilians here at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield back to work,” Hort said. “We’re excited to have our civilians here next to us. They provide the institutional knowledge we desperately need here.”
Hort said the civilian employees returning to work Monday included commissary employees though most wouldn’t return until Tuesday.
He explained the commissary is usually closed on Monday.
He said they had to restock shelves and restock the perishable items.
In addition to the commissary, he said Army Community Services, range operations and “any place” that supports soldiers and their families, including the identification card facility reopened.
When asked about gates, Hort said military police were assigned gate duty during the shutdown in order to prevent the traffic delays at the main gates.
He said the civilian gate guards are manning the gates again.
Hort was asked if he knew whether civilian employees who were furloughed would receive back pay for the time they were furloughed, but he said he’d have to defer that question to civilian leaders.
“We thank our civilians for their service and being back here with us today,” Hort said. “They are partners in our support of soldiers and their families. With their absence last week, we saw a degradation of services.”
He acknowledged and expressed his gratitude for how the civilian communities stepped up their support for soldiers and families.
He named many grocery stores that restocked shelves to meet the higher demand from Stewart-Hunter during the shutdown.