Hurricane-Damaged Tyndall AFB: Update

Assessments of damage, along with estimating costs involved with restoring the base to full operational status, are under way.  Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson was on the ground there last weekend and told reporters the following:  “I feel pretty good about the future of Tyndall.  I know it will be a long, hard road, but we have a lot of resilient airmen who are already putting their head down and getting after making it a safe place.”

One of the immediate concerns was the status of the 22 F-22 Raptor fighter jets that were left hangered at Tyndall due to maintenance issues.  Although there was definite damage to those hangers (roofs, visibly), officials there were cautiously optimistic that any damage repairs for those jets was manageable.  The 33 remaining Tyndall F-22’s were all fully operational and were flown to Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio prior to Hurricane MICHAEL making landfall.

Tyndall AFB Commander, Colonel Brain Laidlaw, issued instructions for those personnel wishing to return to check on their base house or dorm status.  “We are opening the gates for limited access for five days, from October 17 through October 21.  Evaluation (of property) may only be accomplished between 10 AM and 3 PM, Central Standard Time, on the previously mentioned days.”

He went on to stress that conditions on base were still very much post-storm basic, with warnings to those coming on base to bring their own food and water; safety glasses and hard hats were strongly recommended; bringing children very much discouraged due to safety concerns; no pets allowed on base; personal belongings may be taken (truck for transport, if needed), personnel would not be allowed to remain on base past the instructed time; any vehicles left before the storm may be removed, if safe and operational; and with gasoline in the area very limited, returnees were urged to fill-up at least 70-miles away from the Tyndall local area. Base-assigned personnel would be permitted to return to Tyndall as many times as needed, within the days and hours specified.

Colonel Laidlaw’s concluding message to personnel who may choose to return within the approved access window: “Please understand that our base and local area remain dangerous.  We are still clearing roads, power lines, and debris. This has been a major undertaking, but we are getting better each day. We continue working a long-term plan, but we simply aren’t there yet, as we are concentrating on the short term day-to-day recovery actions.”

(Commander quotes & instructions via 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, Tyndall AFB; F-22 status information via, Jennifer Svan, 10-15-18)