TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Hurricane Michael altered the landscape where many Airmen worked, trained and lived. With the flood of changes, a return normalcy is a priority for the base.
Tyndall Air Force Base's first step to normal operations was to reestablish its mission sets. The 823rd REDHORSE Squadron Detachment 1 reignited its training capabilities Jan. 8, propelling its first wave of 165 students toward a deployable and mission-ready status.
“After the hurricane, there was so much that wasn’t normal. Getting this first class on the ground helped us to attain a sense a normalcy and get us back into our groove and rhythm,” said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Smith, 823rd RHS instructor.
“A lot of our efforts have been focused on recovering our site -- getting back to our normal training environment, so that way we can receive students and train them up to deploy down range,” Smith added.
The 823rd RHS Det. 1 showed off its class’ newfound skill sets with the debut of the unit’s first exercise since the hurricane Jan. 15, 2019.
“The purpose of the exercise is to broaden the exposure to a new [civil engineer] process called Rapid Airfield Damage Recovery, said Tech. Sgt. Isaiah Jones, 823rd RHS instructor. “It’s a new initiative from CE on how to recover an airfield after an attack.”
“We are here to train civil engineers and force support squadrons on contingency aspects of their job in a deployed environment,” Jones noted.
During the exercise, students learn the full scope of a deployment from start to finish.
“Students begin their training by going through the in-processing line – they travel out to their [simulated] deployed location,” Jones stated. “They build the tents the students sleep in, they build the tents they eat out of, they build everything that has to do with establishing a bare base such as fuel storage systems and even water storage systems.”
The exercise tests the students’ abilities, enabling them to think for themselves during stressful scenarios.
“It puts them in a role, where we are no longer acting as instructors anymore -- we are observers,” Smith said. “It requires them make those real-world decisions on the spot, so if something goes bad, they have to make that those choices without the guidance of someone who has been in that circumstance before.”
With the innovative training that the Silver Flag Site offers its students, 823rd RHS instructors agree that maintaining the unit in an operational status at Tyndall AFB will aid the Air Force’s training efforts.
“I’m glad that the base stayed, I’m glad that the mission stayed here because this is one of the most premiere training locations in the Air Force,” Jones concluded.