JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
Air Combat Command Airmen are responding to the danger presented by Hurricane Dorian as it moves along the east coast of the U.S.
More than 150 aircraft have evacuated inland to protect the billions of taxpayer dollars invested into the Air Force fleet.
Aircraft from Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina; Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; Moody Air Force Base, Georgia; Robins Air Force Base, Georgia; and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, began evacuating to inland bases Sept. 2.
The wing leadership who own those assets - the F-22 Raptor 5th generation fighter, the F-16CM Fighting Falcon, the T-38 Talon, the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft, and the A-10 Thunderbolt II - have specific actions they take at certain hours before a storm is expected to affect their area of control. For this hurricane season, the U.S. Air Force has taken steps to better prepare for weather threats after the damage caused by the major natural disasters of 2018. Hurricane Michael, which destroyed most of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, in October of 2018, and the storm that flooded Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, have alerted senior Air Force leaders and Congress to the growing danger of weather-related harm.
As a result, ACC developed a severe weather readiness action team to perform a deep analytical dive into weather events across the nation. This team, headed up by Lt. Gen. Chris Weggeman, the deputy commander of ACC, evaluated actions and evacuation success to determine best practices to share with bases throughout the command. His team’s operational approach treated severe weather as another Air Force global adversary with immense reach and power. Through this lens, his team applied proven force-readiness concepts and risk mitigations to develop pro-active actions to combat the severe weather adversary.
"We've issued a planning directive to all ACC units, which basically puts into place the things they need to plan for, and the posturing actions they need to have done ahead of time," he said. "Instead of the Hurricane Condition (HURCON) framework that we've used for years, we're proposing a HUR-RY framework, which is a great word, but it's actually 'hurricane ready. The HUR-RY framework centers on pre-emptive and continuous planning, threat and risk-based prioritization of effort, and setting a ready and responsive posture at our highest risk installations, during the statistically proven high-risk timeframe, in this case, Hurricane Season.”
Ready is the watchword in ACC as units are forced to contend with the dangers posed by the severe weather adversary while at the same time remaining focused on the threat of peer or near-peer adversaries. Reclaiming combat readiness degraded by decades of intensive deployment schedules and budgetary uncertainty has been an area of intensive focus over the last year.
"Focused investment of increased Congressional funding has yielded improved readiness, and it shows as we prepare our bases for Dorian," said Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of ACC. Holmes attributed the ability to quickly plan, prepare and fly aircraft to safety with little notice to a threat and risk-based readiness mindset bolstered by constant awareness of the command’s adversaries and mission priorities.
"It's not just about aircraft and equipment," said Holmes. "These aircraft are expensive taxpayer-owned assets, and we have a responsibility to take care of them in order to continue to be combat ready. But they're not our most important asset - our Airmen are. ACC wing commanders know the key to balancing the concern for both aircraft and Airmen is to evacuate jets in a time frame that allows those crews supporting the aircraft and their families to evacuate the base if need be."
"If we get all the jets to safety but leave Airmen and their families behind to contend with the storm, that's a failure," he continued.
For tips and specific information on how to prepare for a hurricane or a tornado, visit https://www.beready.af.mil. Also on that site, there is a Be Ready mobile app available for download to smart phone devices.