Paycheck or not, the US Coast Guard station in St. Joseph remains operational. Chief Petty Officer Grant Heffner is in charge of the station and says nothing really changes for them despite the partial shutdown of the federal government.
“We’re going to maintain our readiness, and have the search-and-rescue crew available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our crew is ready to answer the call,” Heffner says.
That includes ice rescue training in frigid weather Tuesday morning. Austin Ballard was among the Guardsmen who went into the St. Joseph River for the exercise.
“You’ve only got one minute to get your breathing under control and ten minutes of movement and an hour of consciousness. And today with the wind chills, you probably don’t even have that,” said Ballard.
Guardsmen trained in the icy river for nearly an hour. Their message to the public is no ice is safe ice, but if you do go out and fall through, try not to panic. The If you can get your forearms up onto an ice shelf, lift yourself up that way and roll away from the hole.
As far as the partial federal government shutdown goes, there’s only so much Heffner can say. They’re certainly not getting involved in the political debate and are just focused on doing their work. Heffner was asked how morale has been since the shutdown started more than a month ago.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and have your focus elsewhere, but the crew has been doing a really good job keeping their eye on the mission.”
He added they’re feeling the love and support from the entire community.
“We’ve received an overwhelming amount of gratitude and charity from the community; people walking up to my crew and saying ‘thank you,’ understanding that we’re probably going through a tough time,” said Heffner.
The Coast Guard is not under the Defense Department, otherwise Guardsmen would be getting a paycheck. They’re instead part of U.S. Homeland Security, which is among the agencies with no budget as a result of the shutdown.