TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Hurricane Michael swept through Tyndall Air Force Base on October 10, 2018.
Immediately following the event, multiple major commands mobilized relief assets in an effort to restore operations after the hurricane caused catastrophic damage to the base, to include chaplain services.
Chaplain Major Zachary Nash, 633rd Air Base Wing deputy wing chaplain, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, received a call the following Monday morning asking if his bags were ready to go with his only response being, “my bags are always ready to go sir.”
However, he wasn’t as prepared for what he was about to see arriving at Tyndall AFB.
“I couldn’t believe the breadth of the destruction,” said Nash. “I’ve been around tornado damage before and this is like a 30-mile-wide tornado hit Tyndall Air Force Base.”
The chaplain’s initial job was working with Task Force Harp to help the families returning to their homes for the first time since the storm. They provided moral and spiritual support as they decided what was salvageable and what they would have to claim on insurance or count as a loss.
“We assisted in funneling them to the many resources available whether it was insurance claims or linking them up with our mission partners on the base,” said Nash.
Now the chaplains on base have started supporting the enduring presence on Tyndall as the rebuilding process begins.
“The chaplain core are assessing what people need for moral and religious accommodations,” said Nash. “We are also providing confidential counseling and advice to commanders.”
Even with current life at Tyndall being more like an expeditionary setting, more similar to a deployment than to what you would find at a normal stateside base, the moral has been high.
“There’s two reasons for everyone’s moral staying so high,” said Nash. “One is that many of the people here, deployed from another location, are exercising specialties that they are trained to do. The second part is, if you’re from Tyndall, or even if you’re an Airmen from another base, you’re taking care of your own.”
Additionally, people being able to see immediate effects from their actions during the recovery process, may be the reason for everything staying on schedule.
“Kudos to our leadership - Col. Brian Laidlaw, 325th Fighter Wing commander, his team and the task force members have been working tirelessly to meet and exceed benchmarks,” said Nash. “It’s apparent that Col. Laidlaw and all the people working with him have, first and foremost, the Airmen in their heart and in their minds. That has been encouraging to our Airmen because they see it.”
This past weekend, the chapel began services in one of the temporary tents. Their goal is to provide as much normalcy as possible for the more than 1,200 service members deployed to the base.