NM airman honored for role in new law that helps deployed troops
Alamogordo (N.M.) Daily News
An airman's idea was the catalyst for a new law in the state of New Mexico.
Holloman Air Force Base Tech Sgt. Fabian Silva was recognized on Wednesday at the Sgt. Willie Estrada Memorial Civic Center for his efforts to create a law that went into effect this July.
Like most members of the armed forces Silva has had to deploy to remote areas of the world to serve his nation. During preparations for his last deployment Silva came across a snag while trying to shut off the utilities for his home.
He said he planned to have his parents look after his house and he wanted to leave some of his utilities on for them but wanted to turn off the non-essential utilities.
"When I went down to city hall (in Alamogordo), they let me know that it was kind of like a bundle. You couldn't really turn one off without turning them all off," he said. "I thought that was not fair to the service members who were going to go fight and be paying for something that the city wasn't really going to be providing a service for, but we still had to pay into it."
After learning about the utility bill rule, Silva was disgruntled and decided to speak with his state representative Jeff Steinborn.
"Instead of griping about my situation online, I chose to speak with a representative," Silva said.
When Steinborn learned of Silva's plight he was prompted to take action and began working to amend the situation.
"He told me what was going on, and it was obvious we needed to address the issue," Steinborn said.
He said he worked closely with Silva to better understand what military service members must endure before going on temporary duty or being deployed.
Fabian said he stayed in contact with Steinborn while he was deployed in Afghanistan to assist in creating a law that would benefit him and his fellow service members.
Steinborn said he and Silva created a house bill before it became part of the New Mexico State Statutes.
According to Steinborn, the law was decided upon during a 60-day legislative session.
Under the new law any military member that will go TDY or deploy for a month or more can request to have the bills they need off turned off at no extra cost to them.
"Now they (servicemembers) will be able to turn off their utilities without being penalized," Silva said.
Silva added that service members who have been deployed would also be exempt from having to pay reconnection fees under the new law. He said even if they move from one apartment to another after being deployed they won't be hit with a reconnection fee.
"One of the cool things about this law is if a service member comes back from deployment, as long as they keep the utilities under the same name, it doesn't matter if they change locations they won't be hit with reconnection fee," Silva said.
Silva said for services members to qualify for the benefits of the law, they must present valid TDY or deployment orders.
"I feel extremely satisfied," Silva said. "I think we have upwards of 10,000 military personal in the state, including the Guard and Reserves that can be impacted by this new law."