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Weasel maintainers return from evacuation

By Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

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Airmen assigned to the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron returned home from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Sept. 13, after nearly 50 20th Fighter Wing pilots returned Sept. 12.

The maintenance Airmen preemptively left Shaw AFB, S.C., Sept. 7, to maintain Shaw’s F-16CM Fighting Falcons, which the pilots evacuated a day later in preparation for Hurricane Irma.

“The main purpose of the HUREVAC is to protect the assets that we have,” said Capt. Jordan Sheffer, 79th Fighter Squadron pilot. “With all the F-16s on this base, it would be a very big blow to a national security asset if they got damaged or destroyed in any sort of natural disaster.”

Hurricane Irma formed in the Atlantic Ocean and swept over islands in the Caribbean and Florida and was, at one point, predicted to pass over South Carolina.

“These jets are designed to use drag and lift to get up in the air,” said Staff Sgt. Jacob Marsh, 20th AMXS tactical aircraft maintainer. “They can absolutely lift off the ground from (the winds of) a hurricane. I’ve seen it, and it’s not a good time.”

Although the storm wreaked havoc through other states, the eye of the hurricane moved west, and Shaw only experienced tropical storm conditions.

“The storm turned out to not be as bad as what, initially, we were expecting,” said Sheffer.

By evacuating the aircraft, Shaw Weasels demonstrated the 20th Fighter Wing’s capability to mobilize its fleet on short-notice and helped ensure the aircraft’s readiness for the next mission.