Federal holiday keeps many busy

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Mission-essential workers must cover positions

Gold Standard Acting Editor
Christmas Day is a federal holiday so the majority of Fort Knox employees will have the day off to enjoy the day’s festivities with families. For many, the pre-season rush has been so hectic, the day provides a much-needed opportunity for rest.
But not all Knox citizens will enjoy the day in the same fashion.
Those are the folks who work in mission essential jobs manning fire hoses, radar guns or hypodermic needles. Of course, they monitor operations at their duty sites at the fire station, police patrol cars, hospital emergency department and such.
On Christmas Day, there will be a minimum of 13 firefighters and one supervisor on duty to man the installation’s three fire stations.
Although firefighters normally are on duty for 48 consecutive hours, special shifts will be in effect for the next couple of weeks.
“No one really wants to work during the holiday, so we ensure no one has to work both Christmas Eve and Christmas day,” said Jay Schiedewitz, deputy fire chief at the Fort Knox Fire Department.
Others who will be working are in categories you might not have guessed would be pulling a shift on a holiday.
Human Resources Command, for example, will have seven contractors monitoring the Data Center operations as well as eight Department of the Army civilians manning the Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center.
 “The Army’s CMAOC maintains an operational capability 24/7/265,” said Kevin Logan, deputy chief of CMAOC. “Maintaining this vigilance supports the thousands of Soldiers and Army civilians deployed in active, hostile wartime environments and those non-deployed Soldiers who are susceptible to non-hostile or accidental injury or death around the world.”
Although the fast food outlets on Fort Knox will be closed, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service will man the 24 hour Express shopette Christmas Day with 13 people working over the three shifts.
“The Express is considered mission essential, so it’s always open,” said Shannon Friend with AAFES. “Police and fire departments must be able to access the gas pumps.”
Of course, anywhere Soldiers are billeted, food must be provided, so about 40 dining facility employees will be working over two shifts on Christmas Day. Karen Johnson with QAE Food Service said those single Soldiers who live in barracks will be offered a mid-morning brunch and a late afternoon supper, although nothing as elaborate as the eye-popping Thanksgiving meal.
Logically enough, if there are others working on post using computers or telephones, someone must be available to assist if those communication systems should fail in this technology-dependent culture. The Network Enterprise Center will have people on standby ready to respond should the need arise for urgent repairs. In a similar vein, the installation operations center will have two people work 12 hour shifts to monitor various systems on the post.
The Directorate of Emergency Services will have personnel working in order to man the gates as well as other security operations and law enforcement functions.
Although few elective procedures are done over the holidays, Ireland Army Community Hospital will need staff to care for those still requiring inpatient care.
According to Col. Matthew Rettke, Fort Knox MEDDAC  commander, employees will be on duty in the emergency room itself, emergency medical service responders and Labor and Delivery.
“Babies come when they are ready,” he said, “so we always have somebody on standby at  Labor and Delivery.”
Whether you’re working, traveling or celebrating, the garrison leadership urges everyone to be safe and return to duty healthy.