While thousands of Joint Base Lewis McChord employees are dealing with smaller paychecks because of furloughs, one group on the base is working even more.
Overworked and in need of sleep, JBLM 911 operators have been working up to almost a month straight and say it's time for them to speak up.
Sequestration canceled all of the dispatchers' vacation until September.
One dispatcher says because of the stress, many are calling in sick, forcing others to work overtime. Dispatchers fear fatigue may put the people they serve at risk.
"It feels like you're disassembling your life to accommodate all this," dispatcher Tisha Kennell said.
Nine-one-one dispatchers like Kennell are exempt from sequestration, which slashed pay for civilian workers by 20 percent.
Kennell is afraid she may face the same pay cut in September and has rented out the first two floors of her house to save money in case.
For now, she says most shifts she goes in already exhausted from working most shift understaffed.
At times, Kennell monitors eight computers and five emergency channels on her own. Her record is working two weeks straight, for as many as 16 hours a day.
"We drink coffee. We drink tea," Kennell said. "There are some girls that drink five monster drinks a shift. That's not healthy. We're not eating right because we are trying to stay awake."
The caffeine isn't good for her heart condition, but she needs it to stay awake while she and one other dispatcher take calls from Fort Lewis, the Interstate 5 corridor, Camp Murray, Dupont and south Pierce County.
Kennell says that before sequestration, there were five dispatchers per shift.
The dispatchers have learned to prioritize the calls that tend to stack up.
"It's impossible to handle everything that comes into the dispatch center," Kennell said.
For now she's thankful to have a job and be getting by. Kennell still plans to smile and show up to work, but rumors of deeper cuts and possible layoffs in September just add stress to an already stressful job.
According to JBLM, suspending all vacation for furlough exempted emergency personnel is only fair when thousands are getting smaller paychecks due to sequestration.
Currently, 13 dispatchers cover JBLM's 911 dispatch. A spokesperson said three open positions will be filled soon.