TYNDALL AIR FORCE, Fla. --
While Hurricane Michael created catastrophic devastation to most of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, the relief efforts were an instant reminder of the symbiotic relationship between military branches.
In the days following the storm, the Air Force came in droves to provide support with the Navy and Army not far behind. Engineers from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, Gulfport, Mississippi, and the 46th Engineer Battalion, Ft. Polk, Louisiana, hit the ground running.
They traveled in convoys bringing with them construction vehicles and equipment. Unable to bring everything they would need, they also planned to have contracted vehicles meet them at Tyndall.
In teams, totaling more than 130 personnel, they worked to clear trees and debris.
“We are going full force getting trees removed, so we can help people access their buildings,” said Equipment Operator 2nd Class Zachary Bunter, MNCB 133. “Our main focus is 30-feet around buildings and roads.”
His team was successful in clearing the area around the base clinic.
“We are hoping to clear up enough that when the permanent party are returning it may be less of a shock,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Klein, 46th Engineer Battalion commander. “We want to restore hope that the base is going to come alive again.”
The Army has also taken-on clearing out Fam Camp, which will be used as a staging area for rebuild efforts.
The teams have exceeded expectations and the motivation seems to be an eagerness to help.
“We are all here to take care of each other,” said Klein. “We take care of our brothers and sisters on our right and left and that is what this mission is. I told them to remember that they are helping their own and that is what is most important.”
For many, it is also about putting their training to work.
“For some of them, this is their first time seeing a disaster like this and doing first response,” said Bunter. “These type of missions, humanitarian and disaster recovery, are what we really shine at – being able to go out and help people weather it is here in the U.S. or overseas.”
Klein echoes his sentiment.
“We have stood up to do hurricane response three times in the past two years and this is the first time we have actually been called out to help,” he said. “The soldiers are getting to experience what the army does, what the military does and what the Department of Defense does.”
At the end of the day, the Army and Navy have the same end goal – to return normalcy to the base and surrounding community.
“Contractors have thanked us for helping because the base is a huge source of revenue for the local community,” said Bunter. “Hopefully this base recovers and hopefully what we do is a big help to everything”
Getting the mission up and running is also a top of the list priority.
“We have to get it right so they are able to go out continue what their mission is,” said Klein. “They run a very important mission out of this base, so it is important for the nation and DoD to get it up and running as quick as possible.”