BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
On Oct. 10, 2018 , Hurricane Michael ripped through the Florida Panhandle with racing winds and powerful rain causing damage to homes, businesses and other structures.
During its duration, this category four storm directly impacted Tyndall Air Force Base, destroying parts of the base, displacing Airmen and their families.
Through the recovery process, Barksdale was able to play a few different roles in the relief and rebuilding efforts.
The 2nd Logistic Readiness Squadron provided two six-passenger trucks to support Tyndall during the recovery period.
“We understood after seeing the aftermath of Hurricane Michael that the relief and rebuild effort would need to be both lengthy and require a cumulative effort,” said 1st Lt. Darrel Kevin Larios, 2nd LRS vehicle management flight commander. “The trucks we provided are being used in various ways, whether it be transporting personnel, equipment or both.”
Along with 2nd LRS support, the 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron, provided three Airmen to support the restoration efforts. Tech. Sgt. Bradley Allen, operations management craftsman; 1st Lt. Drew McAuliff, emergency management chief and Staff Sgt. Patrick Hartigan, engineering craftsman, all assigned to the 2nd CES, were sent to Tyndall in support of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), according to Senior Master Sgt. Courtenay Sartain, 2nd CES squadron superintendent.
“Task Force (TF) Phoenix was stood up to assess the damage to the base, determine what can still be used, and finally conduct short-term repair actions to preserve facilities that are still usable,” Sartain explained. “We are all a part of Task Force Phoenix.”
The task force includes members from nine different bases as well as an Army construction battalion and Navy Seabees. Team members with the 2nd CES departed with 24 hours of notification. They are expected to provide their expertise and assistance for 30 days.
“As a controller Sergeant Allen assigns, records and coordinates specific taskers - 384 total to date. Sergeant Hartigan is the cornerstone of the engineering assistant shop and mapmaking,” Sartain said. “He creates maps and guides three Airmen and two Soldiers in Geographic Information System and Surveying operations. There were no mapmaking capabilities before his arrival so he had to salvage equipment and get it up and running.”
“Lieutenant McAuliff's job is to manage and liaise with the local CE operations flight for the restoration of power, water and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) to each facility. He also manages refuse service contracts.”
According to McAuliff, the opportunity to help is has been gratifying.
"Seeing the damage firsthand is an eye-opening experience,” McAuliff said. “There's a lot of experience and comradery built with the team, much like a deployed environment. Day in and day out it is rewarding to see the progress that's being made. Each day facilities are turned on, power lines are restored, and tons of debris is cleaned up. However, there's a lot of work to do and the base will be recovering for years after we leave."
Barksdale’s Airmen and Family Readiness Center (A&FRC) has also been able to join in on the efforts. They were assigned 28 cases through the Air Force Personnel Accountability and Assessment System aiding displaced Tyndall personnel based on their needs for assistance.
According to Cheryl Kirkwood, 2nd Force Support Squadron A&FRC flight chief, the team has assisted with more than 80 manpower hours and given more than $35,000 in support of evacuated personnel. They have been able to provide information for absentee voting, coordination needed for children in school or daycare services and even help those who happened to be in the process of retiring or separating when the hurricane hit.
“As case managers, we are required to reach out to the members and their families to assist with whatever needs or concerns they may have,” Kirkwood said. “Whether it’s getting their pet to the veterinarian, helping them get to the doctor or put money in their pocket and clothes on their back, it is great to be able to help.”
The A&FRC staff typically checks in on these members about every seven to 10 days. They are also regularly updated on information, resources and knowledge they can pass along to these individuals.
“Every need is different. Initially, concerns focused on surviving financially for lodging and food. Many wanted to ensure they were okay and that using their Government Travel Card was authorized,” Kirkwood explained. “Other concerns were with how the long-term damages from Hurricane Michael would affect them. Our assistance deals with assessing needs, addressing them and finding the information and resources to help with resolving or improving the requested needs.”
Recently, Frank DeVillier, 2nd FSS A&FRC representative with the Joint Task Force housing, assignment, relocation and posture, was chosen to be a part of a 16 person team that includes military assignments and civilian personnel issues specialists, A&FRC experts, Exceptional Family Member Program professionals, Military Family Life consultants and School Liaison Officers, according to Kirkwood. The team is designed to help with relocation, housing, family living, school and EFMP issues.
Although it may be unclear when Tyndall and its personnel will be able to return to normal operation s, they can rest easy knowing this is not a battle they are fighting alone.
“It is times like these when Airmen are helping Airmen, that we show the strength of our commitment to each other,” said Col. Sara Custer, 2nd Mission Support Group commander.