Former federal employees recall effects of previous government shutdown on Redstone Arsenal workforce

HUNTSVILLE Ala. -- The government shutdown not only affects policy, it directly affects federal workers, including many employees at Redstone Arsenal. Bill Marks is the former garrison commander at Redstone Arsenal.

"When I was the garrison commander, I would lead off every update or presentation, that I got the best job on the best installation on the planet. And I truly feel that way," Marks said.

Marks was garrison commander during the 2013 government shutdown. He said while this latest shutdown is different than the one in 2013, he knows what it means for the arsenal.

"I can imagine what the workforce is going through," Marks said. "It seems to have come to come resolution, but to put a workforce through that in the first place is just disheartening."

He said while many essential employees work through a government shutdown, those that are put on furlough can feel like they aren't needed.

"Everybody wants to believe that what they're doing is critical to our national defense," Marls said. "When things like this happen it sends a different message."

Dan O'Boyle recently retired from Redstone Arsenal, after 40 years of service, just missing the government shutdown. "This is kind of a fortuitous circumstance, to be home and watching all this unfold," he said.

He worked with Aviation and Missile Command, supporting the helicopters and missile systems deployed around the world. While he missed this year's shutdown, he said he certainly remembers the government shutdown in 2013.

"Disruptive, in a word, lack of continuity, frustrating," O'Boyle said. "We take an oath as civilians to defend the constitution, and support the nation's defense force wherever they are. Then all of a sudden, boom, you're out the door."

The shutdown in 2013 lasted for 16 days, while the latest shutdown may be shorter, O'Boyle said it can still be devastating to furloughed employees.

"The overall feeling is that you're not part of the team," O'Boyle said. "Because all of a sudden, Friday there's a midnight deadline, and Monday it's like okay, don't bother. You're not needed anymore."

O'Boyle was furloughed, and paid back pay when the shutdown ended, but he says shutdowns will keep happening unless continuing resolutions are addressed.
"All of our leaders have said that we need predictable, consistent funding. That's not possible under a continuing resolution," O'Boyle said.

He said the hardest part of being furloughed was knowing that he was not there to support the soldiers he took an oath to protect. "We owe our brothers and sisters, deployed around the world, the support they deserve and they need."

Bill Marks said no matter the length of the shutdown, it causes frustration to federal employees. "This is disruption to life. It creates anxiety," he said. "And I don't think it's helpful to what we're all trying to accomplish."

Marks said the government shutdown is an obstacle the arsenal has overcome before, one he says the workforce will overcome again.

"They come to work every day, the 43,000 some odd number of men and women out there," Marks said. "With a genuine desire to make a difference for their country, their organization, and each other."