Weasel maintainers return from evacuation

The C-17 aircrew returned 20th Fighter Wing Airmen home after a short-notice hurricane evacuation of Shaw’s F-16CM Fighting Falcons. (

A C-17 Globemaster III engine is attached beneath the wing of the aircraft parked at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 13, 2017. The C-17 provides air mobility capabilities such as the rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to both main operating and forward-operating bases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

The C-17 aircrew returned 20th Fighter Wing Airmen home after a short-notice hurricane evacuation of Shaw’s F-16CM Fighting Falcons. (

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing descend the steps of a C-17 Globemaster III onto the flightline of Shaw Air Force Base (AFB), S.C., Sept. 13, 2017. The Airmen returned home after a preemptive evacuation of Shaw’s F-16CM Fighting Falcons to Barksdale AFB, La., to protect Air Force assets from Hurricane Irma. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

The C-17 aircrew returned 20th Fighter Wing Airmen home after a short-notice hurricane evacuation of Shaw’s F-16CM Fighting Falcons. (

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Amanda Fennelly, 20th Logistics Readiness Squadron deployment instructor, left, positions a chalk while Tech. Sgt. Christopher Deibel, 20th LRS small air terminal operations NCO in charge, drives a forklift carrying luggage at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 13, 2017. Fennelly placed the chalk in front of the vehicle as a marker to ensure the aircraft did not get damaged by the vehicle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

The C-17 aircrew returned 20th Fighter Wing Airmen home after a short-notice hurricane evacuation of Shaw’s F-16CM Fighting Falcons. (

A U.S. Airman lowers the staircase of a C-17 Globemaster III after landing at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 13, 2017. The C-17 aircrew returned 20th Fighter Wing Airmen home after a short-notice hurricane evacuation of Shaw’s F-16CM Fighting Falcons. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

The C-17 aircrew returned 20th Fighter Wing Airmen home after a short-notice hurricane evacuation of Shaw’s F-16CM Fighting Falcons. (

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., approaches the runway at Shaw Air Force Base (AFB), S.C., Sept. 13, 2017. The C-17 carried approximately 80 Airmen assigned to the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron back to Shaw AFB after a hurricane evacuation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

The C-17 aircrew returned 20th Fighter Wing Airmen home after a short-notice hurricane evacuation of Shaw’s F-16CM Fighting Falcons. (

Greg McLean, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron transient aircraft servicer, marshals in a C-17 Globemaster III at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 13, 2017. Transient aircraft servicers are often called upon to marshal in unfamiliar aircraft if an aircraft maintainer assigned to the airframe is unavailable. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- 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.