CHARLESTON (AP) — The leader of the West Virginia National Guard said Tuesday that the state isn’t as prepared to respond to a disaster as it should be due to the federal government shutdown.
Maj. Gen. James Hoyer told reporters that a lack of funding is eroding the guard’s preparedness. He says his units aren’t training as much as they should be and maintenance of the guard’s equipment is becoming an issue that could delay a response in an emergency. Hoyer called a news conference to remind residents that even though many National Guard employees are returning to work, that there’s still an impact to the government shutdown.
Hoyer says the maintenance is an especially big problem when it comes to responding to a disaster. He says the state may not be able to send as many helicopters to quickly respond to a disaster as it would like to because of the need for a maintenance re-inspection, or because pilots have lost their qualifications due to a lack of training.
“If we have a disaster in this state, we’re down helicopters,” he said. “We don’t have the same number we’d normally have in response to a disaster.”
The state was also supposed to receive a new helicopter on Oct. 1, but Hoyer says it is still sitting at a depot because he can’t send anyone to pick it up. Three pilots that were supposed to get training on the helicopter are still waiting for that to occur.
Hoyer also said the state is also running out of maintenance supplies for wheeled vehicles, like trucks. He also said the state doesn’t have the money to send maintenance crews to different parts of the state where they could do work if they did have the supplies.
“The Guard in West Virginia will overcome obstacles. We’ll make things happen to take care of our people in this state, but we shouldn’t have to operate this way,” Hoyer said.