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Home under siege: JBLE prepares for Hurricane Dorian

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. (AFNS) --

While America celebrated Labor Day weekend with barbecues, time with family and friends and plenty of sunshine, military members across multiple east coast bases prepared for an approaching storm, Hurricane Dorian.

For the Airmen of Joint Base Langley-Eustis, the weeks ran together as both bases began preparing to secure infrastructure from a different kind of enemy: Mother Nature.

“We have been preparing throughout the holiday weekend with our partner agencies to help mitigate the effects of Hurricane Dorian on JB Langley-Eustis,” said Col. Clinton A. Ross, 633rd Air Base Wing commander.

That mitigation started with protecting the most vulnerable wingmen first.

On Tuesday, Col. David Lopez, 1st Fighter Wing commander, set plans in motion to evacuate aircraft, equipment and personnel. “As a precautionary measure, we are relocating our F-22s and T-38s to a location outside of Dorian’s projected path.”

Aircrew, maintenance and support personnel spent the next couple of days prepping Langley’s fleet of F-22 Raptors and T-38 Talon aircraft to make the trip to their restaging location at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio.

“We have been working really hard to ensure the aircraft have the maintenance needed to make the trip to Ohio,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Potthast, F-22 crew chief. “It was definitely a proud moment watching the last two take off and knowing they weren’t going to be damaged in the storm.”

Meanwhile, emergency operations centers roared to life as representatives from key agencies of both installations began providing council and status updates to key decision makers on the base’s progress.

“Our mission is to provide support for the operational units assigned here, which includes the fighter and intelligence wings at Langley, and multiple brigades at Fort Eustis,” Ross said.

Support for these units came in the form of five-pound sandbags that lined both the interior and exterior doorways of buildings susceptible to flooding.

“We’re taking this storm extremely seriously and making decisions that are in the best interest of our Airmen, Soldiers and their families and the installation,” Ross explained.

Airmen and families housed on JB Langley-Eustis were also evacuated as a safety precaution as the storm’s path and intensity remained unclear.

Doing the evacuation planning phase, even JB Langley-Eustis’ four-legged wingmen were considered.

“The security of our K9 service members is our number one priority because they offer a specialized performance in our mission objectives and base security,” said Staff Sgt. Carmen Pontello, 633rd Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer. “When inclement weather threatens, we take actions to protect them.”

SFS personnel evacuated six MWDs to Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. In addition, multiple horses were taken to a safe location to prevent loss of life or injury.

Although Dorian’s destruction remains unclear, one thing is certain: JB Langley-Eustis is taking every opportunity to secure its assets, infrastructure, personnel and families.

“Thank you for your patience as we continue to monitor the storm to make the best decisions possible in the coming days,” Ross said.

For the current status of JB Langley-Eustis, visit the JB Langley-Eustis Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/JointBaseLangleyEustis and follow the JB Langley-Eustis Twitter accounts @JBLENews and @JBLEStatus.

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