TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
A month ago, Hurricane Michael upgraded from a category two to a category four hurricane overnight. In an effort to keep the base’s most important assets safe, its people, Col. Brian Laidlaw, 325th Fighter Wing commander released an evacuation order.
With exception of the ride-out team, comprised of nearly 100 Tyndall members, everyone left. Among the mix of those remaining were first responders, base leadership and command post personnel.
The initial assessment of the aftermath was bleak, but in the weeks since, the outlook has taken a turn for the better. The base has built back up to more than 2,000 personnel with nearly half on the ground originally from Tyndall.
The Secretary of the Air Force released a statement declaring that several units will remain at Tyndall to include the 601st Air Force Operations Center, the 337th Air Control Squadron, the Air Force Medical Agency Support team, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the 53rd Air-to-Air Weapons Evaluation Group, the Air Force Legal Operations Agency, the 823rd Red Horse Squadron, Detachment 1, and the Air Force Civil Engineer Center.
“The announcement that the Secretary of the Air force made last week became a forcing function for some of our timelines and how we prioritize our recourses,” Laidlaw said. “Based on those timelines, we would like to have the mission support group and the medical group up and running in December.”
The base also stood-up three task forces in response to the destruction of the base.
Task Force Raptor, led by Col. Argie Moore, Air Combat Command combat aircraft division, is made up of more than 40 maintainers from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, who have been working 24-hour operations to make the F-22 Raptors flyable.
“With the jets almost all gone, we would like to downsize the Task Force Raptor team to 13 maintainers, so they can return to Langley,” Laidlaw said.
Task Force Phoenix, led by Col. Patrick Miller, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center vice commander, and comprised heavily of civil engineers, is concentrating on infrastructure, clearing debris, and ensuring that buildings are preserved while permitting decisions on what aspects of Tyndall’s missions go where.
“They have completed 100 percent of their initial assessment of 693 buildings,” Laidlaw said. “They have removed about 40 percent of the debris from the support and flightline side.”
Within its 13 units are Airmen, Sailors and Soldiers.
Finally, Task Force Harp, led by Col. Seth Frank, AFIMSC force protection generation director, is focused on the base’s most important asset – its people.
“They have nine personnel here and 28 at Eglin Air Force Base at the Tyndall Reception Center,” Laidlaw said. “The center has answered over 2,000 calls, completed 600 Transportation Management Office transactions, assisted 100 families with legal issues and over 300 families with schools.”
They are also concentrated on working assignments and housing.
Tyndall has a long road to full recovery, but a month ago many might have thought where the base is today would be impossible. With the combined efforts from Tyndall members and helping hands from across the nation, Tyndall will recover.