TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
In the four weeks since Hurricane Michael swept through the gulf coast and Tyndall Air Force Base, the 325th Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight, with the help of munitions Airmen from across the Air Force, have assessed their munitions facility for damage and are now moving their mission forward.
The Airmen have been busy since their return. Their initial priority was damage assessment and accountability of all the ordnance on Tyndall. The damage to the facility included four collapsed buildings.
“The first day we came in, we were just trying to get a plan of how we were going to assess the situation and damage here in the 325th munitions complex,” said Staff Sgt. Cole Mustion, 57th Munitions Squadron munitions systems craftsman, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. “The igloos, which are concrete reinforced, seem to have done pretty well, some of our tin-sided structures didn’t fare as well and had water damage; with the bunker structures taking the hardest hit.”
Once the initial damage assessment was complete they began moving munitions out of the deteriorated facilities with the help of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Airmen.
“We had to get EOD personnel in to remove and dispose of the damaged munitions, they had 13 people out there using a crane to pull pieces up so we could move them to a stable location,” said Mustion.
The overall MUNS operation was a new experience for the Airmen involved and has put them outside their comfort zone.
“For me I have only been in the Air Force for two years, so I have only worked munitions storage up to this point, but being here we are rebuilding the storage unit from the ground up,” said Airman 1st Class Dylan Querio, 57th MUNS munitions systems journeyman. “We don’t have all the support functions in place yet, so we have been getting the job done, but it has been a challenge with fewer resources available.”
The accountability and assessing of the safety of the ordnance has gone hand in hand. Utilizing previous inventory systems and safety checklists the team has made tangible progress the last four weeks clearing munitions from damaged facilities.
“We having been performing accountability to figure out what is what, and bounce that off our computer system and account for everything we have here,” said Mustion. “So far things are moving a lot faster than we anticipated and a lot of progress has been made in a short amount of time.”
Another focus for the munitions team is deciding what munitions are safe to stay in the inventory and which ones will need to be removed from service. This will be an ongoing process based on safety standards and inspection protocols ensuring no unsafe ordnance goes back into service.
“We work with EOD to determine the destination for the different munitions we are dealing with, whether that is decommissioning them or deciding if they are safe to stay here at Tyndall,” said Mustion.
Mustion reflected on the diligence that the Tyndall team showed hours before the Hurricane hit.
“I have been impressed throughout this process with how the Tyndall personnel prepped the assets before the storm hit to secure and try and save them,” said Mustion. “I wouldn’t have expected that the buildings were going to collapse, but they did a great job prepping for the worst with the short amount of time they had.”