YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – Servicemen working without pay due to the government shutdown picked up donated groceries from a pantry Thursday at the home of the United States Forces of Japan in western Tokyo.
Twenty-two coastguards, including 15 in Yokota and seven in Singapore, are unpaid during the shutdown, which began more than a month ago. The stalemate stems from the House Democrats’ refusal to provide President Donald Trump with the billions he is demanding to build a wall on the US border with Mexico.
Other military branches continued to receive paychecks, but the Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, not the Department of Defense, was not funded.
Coast Guard Commander Adm. Karl Schultz publicly criticized the lack of pay on Wednesday.
“Ultimately I find it unacceptable that the men and women of the Coast Guard have to rely on pantries and donations to live day to day as members of the service,” he said in a video posted on his Twitter account.
On Thursday, volunteer Susan Spano gave Coast Guard members a tour of the Yokota pantry, which is operated by the Air Force Sergeants Association. She explained that they could take as many expired grocery items as they wanted and up to two bags of other items – one more bag than is usually allowed – each week.
Information Systems Technician 1 Joseph Bruce filled a shopping bag with free items like bottled water, cans of pineapples, pasta sauce and sugar.
Bruce, whose wife is expecting a baby girl, said he’s doing fine but will cut his savings if he isn’t paid next month.
âWe are trying to prepare for the baby and buy clothes and things,â he said. “My coworker just had a baby, so she donated a lot of things to us, like a cradle.”
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nathan Wissmann said the Coast Guard’s mission in the Far East involved safety inspections of ships and ports in several countries.
Coast Guard personnel have already missed a paycheck on January 15 and could miss another on February 1.
This has an impact on people who depend on their paycheck to top up their bank accounts, so they can keep up with automatic payments for recurring bills like phone and cable services, Wissmann said.
Soldiers from other branches of service in Yokota have offered to help, and coastguard personnel have requested access to a mutual assistance fund to which the military donates in an emergency, he said. declared.