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Road trip to restoration: 19 CES Airmen help rebuild Tyndall AFB

TF Phoenix Airmen repair building roofs

Senior Airman Minh Dinh, a member of Task Force Phoenix, hammers nails into roof shingles at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 24, 2018. Dinh is a member of Task Force Phoenix, which consisted of Navy Seabees, Army Corps of Engineers, RED HORSE Squadrons, and civil engineers from across the United States. Dinh is deployed from the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Carbajal)

TF Phoenix Airmen repair building roofs

A bucket of nails sits on a roof at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 24, 2018. Members of Tyndall’s Task Force Phoenix have been working to repair roofs as well as many other areas of need throughout the base since Hurricane Michael hit Oct. 10. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Carbajal)

From left to right, Senior Airman Jake Stauffer and Airmen 1st Class Marc Karns and Ikiem Williams, members of Task Force Phoenix, repair a damaged rooftop at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 28, 2018. Task Force Phoenix is responsible for large-scale clean up and reconstruction after Hurricane Michael ravaged Tyndall Air Force Base and the panhandle of Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Isaiah J. Soliz)

From left to right, Senior Airman Jake Stauffer and Airmen 1st Class Marc Karns and Ikiem Williams, members of Task Force Phoenix, repair a damaged rooftop at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 28, 2018. Task Force Phoenix is responsible for large-scale clean up and reconstruction after Hurricane Michael ravaged Tyndall Air Force Base and the panhandle of Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Isaiah J. Soliz)

Task Force Phoenix members Airman 1st Class Marc Karns, left, and Senior Airman Jake Stauffer, right, pause for a moment while repairing a damaged rooftop at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 28, 2018. Task Force Phoenix is tasked with large-scale cleanup and reconstruction of the base in the wake of Hurricane Michael. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Isaiah J. Soliz)

Task Force Phoenix members Airman 1st Class Marc Karns, left, and Senior Airman Jake Stauffer, right, pause for a moment while repairing a damaged rooftop at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 28, 2018. Task Force Phoenix is tasked with large-scale cleanup and reconstruction of the base in the wake of Hurricane Michael. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Isaiah J. Soliz)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

A team of 11 Airmen from Little Rock Air Force Base packed their bags on Nov. 18, 2018, and prepared for their 650-mile road trip to aid in the restoration of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

As the team hit the road, vehicles weighed down with a month’s worth of supplies, the Airmen’s anticipation escalated with every mile covered.

As the vehicles approached the targeted destination, the Airmen were not met with a sense of peace, rather one of destruction. Hurricane Michael made sure that this was no ordinary beach trip.

The 19th Civil Engineer Squadron Airmen were ready to get to work so that Tyndall AFB could be rebuilt.

“After Hurricane Michael, a lot of the facilities were either heavily damaged or completely destroyed, so Tyndall needed civil engineering support to save the facilities that were salvageable as well as maintain the buildings they had left so they could continue to use in them the future,” said U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Hannah Sponseller, 19th CES officer in charge of requirements and optimization.

The primary work completed included destroyed roofs, as well as determining which buildings could still be reclaimed.

“Looking at some of the hangars and seeing the roof completely torn off, it was very eye-opening,” Sponseller said. “You would never think these huge buildings would be destroyed in such a way.”

The 19th CES team consisted of Airmen with the following specialties: heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration; electrical systems; structural specialists; power production; an engineer assistant; and a CES officer.

Due to the readiness posture here, the team was well prepared to respond when the tasking came down to rebuild Tyndall AFB.

"There is definitely a lot to learn,” Sponseller said. “There were a lot of discussions that I would have never been able to be a part of if not for this opportunity.”

The Little Rock AFB team worked alongside teams from Scott AFB, Illinois, and Whiteman AFB, Missouri, to form a task force which hastened the recovery project.

Over their time at Tyndall AFB, the three teams repaired more than 60 roofs and nearly 157,000 sq. feet of roofing.

“I think we had a pretty significant impact,” Sponseller said. “Most of what we did was renovations in buildings so that they could be repurposed."

Giving Tyndall AFB Airmen an opportunity to be with their family and direct their focus on taking care of them after losing everything gave the 19th CES team a sense of purpose.

“Just knowing that the team I was working with was doing the best that we could do to find suitable places for people to live was reassuring,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Blair, 19th CES heavy repair superintendent.

The team assisted in the rebuilding of Tyndall AFB for 30 days.

“We wanted to stay longer,” Blair said. “We were just doing our job, and you really see every day that you are making a difference in people’s lives.”

While most new teams take time to strengthen, this team had a purpose and immediately began to work cohesively.

They skipped the forming, storming, and norming stages of group development and jumped straight to the performing stage, coming together to make it happen, Blair said.

The efforts to repair Tyndall AFB after the devastation of Hurricane Michael showcased the 19th CES Airmen’s ability to provide timely movement and responsive assistance at a moment’s notice.

“Hurricane Michael did a lot of damage to Tyndalll and the surrounding communities,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth Wright. “What it didn’t damage was the motivation, spirit and work ethic of our incredible Airmen.”

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