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Push to help Guardsmen stay overnight in Armories

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Brigadier General John S. Tuohy Chief Master Sgt Timothy R. Tyvan


Push to help Guardsmen stay overnight in Armories

OLYMPIA --  Legislators are looking to tweak a law dating back to 1895 that could allow members of the Washington National Guard to be able to bunk overnight at armories and readiness centers across the state so they don't have to find another place to stay to complete their drill weekends and training.

There are about 8,200 Washington Air and Army National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, most of which serve part time and participate in one drill weekend per month and two weeks of annual training.

Current law allows a Soldier or Airman to stay overnight during an emergency. But the law doesn’t allow wiggle room if a Guardsman living in Western Washington is required to travel to Eastern Washington to stay overnight. The change would allow The Adjutant General to allow Guardsmen to stay overnight for training purposes, typically through the use of a sleeping bag on the floor.

The state Senate unanimously approved the legislation on Jan. 30 as dozens of National Guard members watched from the gallery as part of National Guard Day. The bill now heads to the House for consideration, where an identical version of the bill was already making its way through committees.

Previously, the legislation had been approved by the Senate Committee on Human Services, Mental Health & Housing on Jan. 23 and its companion bill passed unanimously out of the House Committee on Community Development and Housing & Tribal Affairs on Jan. 26 – the very same day the committee took public testimony.

Brigadier General John S. Tuohy testified in favor of the bill before the both committees.

“We appreciate the wide support we’ve received on this bill as well as from the joint committee of veterans affairs,”  testified Tuohy, the Assistant Adjutant General, Washington Air National Guard. “There would be no fiscal impact. It makes changes to a very old statute that regulates the use of our armories, primarily used for training purposes on weekends and storing our equipment.”

The legislation would remove three words in the law to make that happen, with the proposed language, “The adjutant general may permit transient lodging of service personnel in armories,” removing the words “during an emergency.”

“This can be a burden but most overlook this, though, because they truly want to serve this state and nation,” Tuohy added.

Chief Master Sergeant Timothy R. Tyvan with the Washington National Guard also testified before both committees that a significant number of Guardsmen are being impacted when they have to find their own lodgings after driving long distances.

“They love to serve,” Tyvan said Jan. 26. “They love what they’re doing.”

Rep. Klippert is the prime sponsor of the bill on the House side. A lieutenant colonel today in the Washington National Guard, he testified that he served 12 years in the U.S. Army Reserves and 12 years in the Oregon National Guard, where he flew Chinook helicopters and transitioned to the Washington National Guard. Living in Kennewick, he says he travels more than 250 miles to drill.

“When I was in Oregon, I would simply bring my cot with me and my sleeping bag and would sleep in the Armory because The Adjutant General signed that was permissible,” Klippert testified. “… This law would allow Guardsmen like myself, of which there are hundreds, if not thousands, who have to travel those miles and many of them are just starting their careers, to do the same.”

Klippert urged the committee to move to executive session and approve the bill right away. A few minutes later, that’s exactly what the committee members did.

Prime sponsor state Sen. Steve Hobbs, who is also a major in the Washington National Guard, said he thought the law, which dates back to 1895, “was one of those laws that maybe was lost in antiquity and nobody knows why it was in place. I was surprised there was a prohibition in doing it.”

“We drill one weekend a month, two weeks out of the year,” Hobbs added. “I live in Lake Stevens and drive all the way to Camp Murray.  I’m a major and I make enough money that I can get a hotel if I wanted to.”

But, Hobbs notes, it’s not fair for a private or specialist not making a big stipend to have to use their “entire drill pay” to find someplace else to stay.

“This is a great opportunity to stay in the armory so they aren’t blowing all their money to stay at a hotel,” Hobbs testified.

 “I’m surprised we need this change but it really makes sense,” said state Sen. Steve O’Ban, chairman of the Committee on Human Services, Mental Health and Housing. “…This is a good bill.”

The legislation is Senate Bill 5164 and House Bill 1277.

View the testimony of the Senate online courtesy of TVW here. And there's testimony of the House committee here.