23 WG assesses Avon Park after Hurricane Ian

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

Leadership from the 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, visited Avon Park Air Force Range, Florida, to assess damages caused by Hurricane Ian, Oct. 3, 2022.

Utilizing the 41st Rescue Squadron’s HH-60W Jolly Green II aircraft, the 23rd Wing provided an aerial survey to assess damages to facilities and areas of flooding across the 106,000 acre range. Additionally, they determined accessibility of the range for future training exercises and identified areas of improvement to help prevent damages in future natural disasters.

“Avon Park Air Force Range sustained minor water and wind damage throughout several buildings within our complex,” said Lt. Col. Michael Ryan, 598th Range Squadron (RANS) commander. “We have some work to do in order to fix roads that were washed out. Due to our personnel's dedication, we were able to open back up to operations even prior to completely reopening the base. We have lost zero mission capability and will continue to provide combat capability to the warfighter. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by Hurricane Ian.”

During the visit, leadership met with members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Flathead Interagency Hotshot Crew, who used Moody AFB’s geographically separated unit (GSU) as a staging area to support a region in South Florida impacted by the natural disaster.

“Avon Park was a perfect location for us to stage and execute the Temporary Emergency Power mission,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Maksym Zymin, USACE Honolulu District military liaison officer. “With plenty of room for generators and material handling equipment, we had an ability to establish the Generator Staging Base with the capacity to expand the operation should there be a need.”

As directed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Flathead Hotshots provided roadway clearance capabilities for downed trees and debris while USACE provided power to various facilities including hospitals, shelters, police and fire stations, and more.

“Avon Park has the infrastructure required to help federal, state, local, and civilian entities conduct disaster relief operations in central and south Florida,” Col Russ Cook, 23rd Wing Commander said. “As a result, Avon Park was able to provide the space needed to stage the personnel and support equipment, particularly emergency power generation, close to the need for residents of South Florida after Hurricane Ian. The 23rd Wing is proud of the support we provided and will always be ready in the future if needed.”

Aside from Avon Park’s infrastructural support during times of need, the range is primarily used to conduct large-scale exercises. It is Air Combat Command’s largest air-to-ground, ground-to-ground training facility east of the Mississippi River and is home to the 598th RANS, a GSU of the 23rd Fighter Group.

According to Cook, Avon Park is an ideal site for Agile Combat Employment training, the Wing’s framework for conducting Lead-Wing operations.

The 23rd Wing will continue to preserve Avon Park Air Force Range and its lasting impact to the Wing’s mission and, when necessary, its disaster relief support.