In a stunning reversal of fortune, hundreds of civilian employees who were about to be let go because of the Army’s budget problems will keep their jobs after all.

In a move destined to endear him forever to soldiers’ family members — who compose the majority of the temporary workers about to be axed — Gen. David McKiernan, commander of U.S. Army Europe, persuaded the Army to exempt the temps in Europe from what had been an Army-wide order.

“We said, ‘Europe is not the same as CONUS (the States),’ ” said Brig. Gen. Rusty Frutiger, USAREUR personnel chief. “We said, ‘If we let people go, they don’t have the opportunity to go outside the gate. There’s not a Wal-Mart where kids and family members can go and get a job.’ And they bought that rationale.”

So 352 temps who work for the Installation Management Agency-Europe (IMA-E) — and who were told last week that their last day at work would be June 15 — will instead keep their jobs.

“You’re kidding,” Alina Jones, a temporary worker in Darmstadt, said when told of the news. “It’s not that I don’t believe you.”

Jones, a supply manager whose husband is deployed and who had just enrolled her kids in child care after months of being on the waiting list, had learned of the impending end of her job through the newspaper, she said. “I was pacing the floor,” she said. “I was freaking out.”

She was relieved, she said, to hear she’d keep her job after all.

Frutiger said efforts to exempt the temps began Thursday or Friday, and that McKiernan announced on Monday that no temps would be laid-off. He said the decision not only saved family members jobs but also would keep services running smoothly.

“Our sexual assault program was in there,” Frutiger said. “Our family readiness support groups were in there.”

McKiernan was unavailable for comment Monday night. But in a news release he said, “The Army is all about people. That’s why we looked at a number of other options to mitigate the effects of the resource challenge the Army faces. Soldiers, civilians, and the family members who support them are the lifeblood of the Army.”

All temporary workers in all U.S. Army in Europe commands — including USAREUR/7th Army, IMA-Europe, European Regional Medical Command, 5th Signal Command and, US Army-NATO — will retain their positions, Frutiger said.

What’s more, the summer hire program for young people, which provides hundreds of summer jobs, instead of being postponed and possibly cancelled, will proceed. The six-week program will start on June 26, according to the release.

Other cost-cutting measures will be implemented. That includes a hiring freeze in permanent positions; canceling nonessential travel and conferences; reducing car, cell phone, technology, electricity and office-supply use; and redirecting funds from less critical operations.

The cost-cutting measures were ordered recently by the Army’s vice chief of staff in the face of warfighting expenses said to run $5 billion a month. The order or guidance was sent out Army-wide.

IMA implemented the order immediately and began notifying personnel and the public of the impending cuts and what they would mean, such as shorter hours at gyms and mailrooms.

Russell Hall, IMA-E director, said in a written statement on Monday that he was pleased his employees were reprieved.

“IMA-Europe is pleased by the decision of Army leadership to grant relief from termination to our temporary employees. We are also grateful that we will be able to proceed with our summer hire program for our younger family members,” he said.

Last week, Army spokesman Paul Boyce said that temporary workers for the department would not be laid off if Congress passed a supplemental military funding bill that has been in the works since February.

Frutiger said USAREUR officials frequently remind decision-makers in Washington, D.C., that blanket guidance may not be appropriate for Europe.

“We have to analyze it, and tell them why they can’t do that,” he said.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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