Whiteman civil engineers rebuild Tyndall AFB after Hurricane Michael
By Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 18, 2019
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- 12 Airmen assigned to the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron responded to Tyndall Air Force base to help restore it to its former operational glory after Hurricane Michael hit in October 2018.
The category 4 force of nature rocked the home of the 325th Fighter Wing in Panama City, Florida, as it ripped roofs from buildings, destroyed airplane hangars and closed the Silver Flag Training site.
The training site provides U.S. Air Force civil engineers with hands-on technical experience for high-demand, contingency tools and equipment generally not available at their home stations. It focuses on bare base setup of equipment, sustainment operations and recovery after attack.
Senior Airman Brandon Gene B. Arroyo, assigned to the 509th CES electrical power pro section, said Tyndall AFB was barely recognizable.
“I’d been to Tyndall before for Silver Flag training,” he said. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
1st Lt. Travis S. Ellison, the 509th CES requirements and optimization section officer in charge, said he and his Airmen initially fell under Task Force Phoenix before merging with Tyndall’s 325th CES.
From mid-November to mid-December, they partnered with the 275th CES from Scott AFB, the 19th CES from Little Rock AFB, the 436th CES from Dover AFB and the 319th CES from Grand Forks.
Ellison described the impact his team had, including providing electrical power for members of the combined relief effort.
“We repaired 15 facilities at the Silver Flag training site which allowed the site to reopen and [continue to] train 4,500 personnel annually,” he said.
Ellison said the engineers led a repair project at the base’s child development center where they built a 120 ft. fence and a 20 ft. bridge.
“We also removed a 6-ton storage tank that held 590 gallons of fuel from the coastline, which mitigated a potential 28 thousand acre spillage,” he said.
Arroyo and his Wingman Senior Airman Angus J. Bailey, also assigned to the 509th CES electrical power pro section, have both deployed in support of operations in the Middle East. They each described why this relief experience at Tyndall stood out to them.
Arroyo said it felt good to know he was helping his fellow Americans in their time of need.
“Being able to see how we could all respond, working together, was great,” said Bailey, describing how the experience helped reinforce his engineer training. “It really made me feel more confident.”
Ellison said this collaborative relief effort proves that the Air Force can be extremely resilient.
“A major natural disaster strikes and devastates the base and we are there the day after, getting the base mission ready in two months,” he said. “It shows the world our ability to take a huge hit and bounce back quickly.”