Ohio Army National Guard will postpone weekend training

The Ohio Army National Guard will postpone weekend training for about 10,000 soldiers — and may be forced to cancel it entirely — because of a federal budget shortfall, the state military’s top leader said in a message to troops.

Maj. Gen. Deborah Ashenhurst, Ohio adjutant general, said a “significant budget shortfall” at the National Guard Bureau throughout the nation will delay training for Ohio troops until the end of September, the final month of the fiscal year, or the weekend drill may be canceled unless Congress endorses a funding plea.

“We’re very much aware that this action will at best be an inconvenience for all of you and will have varying degrees of economic impact across the force,” she said in a videotaped message. “We’ve taken this action as a last resort.”

Ohio returned some money to the National Guard Bureau, as did other states, to help shore up finances nationally, but Guard leaders have not said how much the shortfall is nor how much Ohio returned.

“Right now, we don’t have any specific numbers,” Maj. Earl C. Brown, a National Guard Bureau spokesman in Washington, said in an email Tuesday.

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In a statement, the National Guard Bureau called the shortfall a “pressing challenge” and attributed it largely to fewer mobilizations of soldiers headed for deployments, higher than planned training attendance and historically high pass rates at schools.

“None of us are happy about this interruption of our training routine, but you have our word that we are doing everything in our power to ensure that you are the best trained National Guard in the history of the force,” Ashenhurst told the troops.

James Sims, an Ohio National Guard spokesman in Columbus, said the funding shortfall impacts the Army National Guard and does not affect the Air National Guard. The Guard has family assistance programs to aid soldiers, he said. Sims also asked Ohio employers to be understanding if National Guardsmen must adjust to changing military training schedules.

“We count on a number of our employers to work with our Guard members on a monthly basis to make sure that they can go to drill while maintaining their employment,” he said. “That’s important to us.”

The Ohio Air and Army National Guard numbers more than 16,000 troops, most of who serve part-time while working for civilian employers.

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