TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. –
Just 13 million pounds to go.
As of Jan. 11, DLA Disposition Services contractors had removed an estimated two million pounds of scrap metal from hurricane-ravaged Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. They’d been on the job about two weeks and estimate that removing all of it may take up to six months total.
“It was a bomb zone. A disaster area. Incredible to see. I’ve never seen such devastation in my life,” said Dave Morgan, the area manager for DLA Disposition Services at Eglin. Eglin Air Force Base lies about 90 miles northwest of Tyndall, which is right on the Gulf of Mexico, between Panama City and Mexico Beach, where Hurricane Michael made landfall as a high-end Category IV storm Oct. 10, 2018.
Morgan arrived with the Defense Logistics Agency’s Rapid Deployment Team four days after the storm and said he’d seen plenty of storm damage as a Floridian, but the devastation at Tyndall was “much, much worse.”
Mark Miskin, an Eglin-based disposal support representative, also got an early look at the post-storm situation. He said when they first arrived, they had to off-road around the base to avoid downed trees, but he has been amazed at their ability to quickly clean things up and re-fence the whole installation.
A lingering problem for Tyndall, Miskin said, is the catastrophic blow to its infrastructure. He said that, according to installation officials, out of the nearly 750 buildings or structures on site, more than 450 of them will eventually need to be demolished.
In the meantime, work space at Tyndall is extremely limited and military offices there are constantly shifting location, adding an extra layer of difficulty to communication and coordination.
“It’s ‘fun’ just trying to find units, because they’re moving around a lot,” Morgan said.
The post office is gone. DLA Document Services … gone. Even the staging area that the installation had given the Eglin disposition crew for conducting on-site property inspections: gone.
Miskin said that even though someone from DLA Disposition Services is at Tyndall working overtime every day – himself, Morgan or fellow disposal rep Tina Rios-Dean – they don’t have a dedicated workspace yet.
“We’re just kind of floating around,” Miskin said, making sure potentially dangerous items like refrigerators or aircraft flares (like he found in a scrap pile very recently) don’t end up in an outgoing scrap shipment.
Not only does the base face a big challenge in how to deal with its uninhabitable buildings, but it also needs to do something with the contents of all those damaged structures.
Morgan said the agency was vocal early on in the recovery process about the Air Force’s impending need for storage space. Since then, DLA’s network of disposition sites has found and shipped six 40-foot containers, 21 20-foot containers, and 85 ISU-90 container units and a mobile office, cumulatively worth an estimated $1.1 million in original acquisition cost. The Air Force is packing these units with equipment and furniture as it prepares to demolish most of its buildings there.
Morgan said Eglin personnel expect to eventually also oversee the demilitarization of two storm-damaged QF-16 drones and three F-15 and F-16 static displays, once Air Force leadership gives final approval. He said the planes are “too wide and too tall” to be simply moved from one side of the base to the other, and he expected it to be “quite a process” to slice off wing tips and make any other necessary accommodations while moving the planes.
The recovery for Tyndall, like those still-reeling Gulf Coast communities around it, promises to be lengthy. Morgan said DLA Disposition Services’ regional personnel will continue to put in whatever hours necessary to ensure the warfighters there can once again focus on their mission as soon as possible.