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Faces of Recovery: Resilience through tragedy

Photo Cutline: Airman 1st Class Carli Johnson, 325th Force Support Squadron food services journeyman, smiles for a photo at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 21, 2018. Johnson’s house sustained severe damage during Hurricane Michael. She is currently providing assistance in the Team Tyndall recovery efforts as they work to bring base operations back to normal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze)

Photo Cutline: Airman 1st Class Carli Johnson, 325th Force Support Squadron food services journeyman, smiles for a photo at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 21, 2018. Johnson’s house sustained severe damage during Hurricane Michael. She is currently providing assistance in the Team Tyndall recovery efforts as they work to bring base operations back to normal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

As the majority of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, was devastated by the severe damage caused by Hurricane Michael, thousands of Airmen, families and civilian workers were forced to evacuate the base.

One evacuee shared her story of how she maintained resilience throughout the ordeal. 

“I’ve been stationed at Tyndall for two and a half years,” said Airman 1st Class Carli Johnson, 325th Force Support Squadron food services journeyman. “I evacuated to Nashville during the storm, but my house was right off base.”

Upon return, Johnson arrived to a house with no power and rooms full of moldy walls, clothes and furniture.

“It’s shocking, definitely,” she said. “I didn’t think it was going to be this bad coming back through. Everything was pretty much destroyed.”

In spite of her predicament, Johnson still remains optimistic and preserves a cheerful attitude.

“It doesn’t really bother me that much, though,” she said. “It is just stuff. It can be replaced. Overall, I am good to go. I do look forward to getting my situation taken care of, it will make work and everything else a little less stressful.”

Last week, Tyndall AFB officials announced the next phase of the recovery effort. They opened the gates, for limited access, to Airmen, families and civilian employees to go to the base and surrounding area and evaluate their personal property.

“I’ve been back about a week working in this recovery effort,” Johnson said. “My job is to check in Airmen that are arriving into the tents and other lodging areas. I have enjoyed creating a bare base; it’s something different that I have never experienced.”

As a first term Airman, the journey of bringing a bare base back to normal operations is something she’s never experienced.

“I’ve deployed but everything was already really built up; this is very unique,” Johnson said. “Right now, it is a little chaotic but we are getting into the swing of things. The days are long but we are busy and I am enjoying the challenge.”