AFIMSC budget analyst survives storm; keeps mission going

  • Published
  • By Ed Shannon
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs
Scott Sheffield weighed his options as Hurricane Michael strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico and barreled toward the Florida coast.

Like most residents in the area, the AFIMSC budget analyst could ride out the storm from his home in Panama City Beach or evacuate to a safer location. But Sheffield had a third option: attend an already planned and scheduled TDY to San Antonio for a training course – ironically a two-day problem-solving and decision-making class.

He opted for the TDY.

“My decision to come here was a good one,” said Sheffield, who is one of 13 civilians and contractors from AFIMSC’s Resources Directorate assigned to Tyndall AFB. “For one thing, I wasn’t sure how sturdy my home would hold up in the storm, and it looked like I would have to evacuate anyway.”

Sheffield left for San Antonio on the day before the storm arrived. He helplessly watched weather coverage from his hotel room as the storm pounded the area where he spent much of his life. From 850 miles away, he recognized surrounding locations as the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore broadcast live from a hotel only two blocks from Sheffield’s home. He remembered thinking, ‘that’s not good.’

However, neighbors communicated with Sheffield and reported great news. His house received no damage. Except for losing power and water for a couple days, everything looked great, and he looked forward to returning to the area.

Sheffield attended the two-day training class but received a stop-movement order on the day after the storm and extended the TDY for another week.

“I packed only two sets of dress clothes for the TDY, and so I bought clothes in San Antonio while waiting for approval to return home,” he said.

Nine days after the storm devastated the area, Sheffield returned to assess damage.

“As we’re flying in, all you can see is complete devastation,” Sheffield said. “It looked like the photos of Hiroshima – all the trees are blown over and there is no greenery – it’s all barren. “What you see on TV does not compare to what it looks like in person.”

Sheffield’s car that was parked at the airport received no damage. As he arrived to his neighborhood just five miles from the most heavily storm-damaged area, he realized how fortunate he was.

“Every house in my complex sustained damage except mine,” said Sheffield, whose house is about a 25-minute drive from Tyndall. “Every building in the complex has tarps on them but mine.”

Sheffield’s two daughters attend the University of Florida in Gainesville and were not in the storm’s path. His ex-wife stayed behind in Panama City Beach and survived the storm. However, Sheffield’s 12 AFIMSC colleagues were not as fortunate.

“Every one of my co-workers sustained significant to catastrophic damage to where some of their houses will have to be re-built,” said Sheffield, who participates in a group text with the team and speaks to them by phone as well.

During the TDY and after his initial visit back home, AFIMSC officials regularly checked on Sheffield to make sure he was handling his personal recovery well.

“After it was determined he was in good shape and because his house was not damaged and his circumstances allowed, we invited him to consider working from San Antonio TDY,” said Col. Anthony Smith, AFIMSC budget director. “Scott and our Tyndall team work budget issues across the Air Force enterprise, and we thought he was in a good place to be able to provide support from here.”

Smith added that his team is sensitive to ensure affected members and their families are able to recover.

“Recovery is the primary focus for the Tyndall team,” he said. “While their focus is on the recovery, the remaining members of the overall budget team will ensure the mission is accomplished.”

Back in San Antonio now until Nov. 16, Sheffield continues to work operations, readiness and energy programs including utilities privatization across the Air Force enterprise. His first efforts involved direct support to hurricane recovery. Sheffield worked two requisitions for $93 million that were used for building a base for Tyndall recovery operations. He assisted with creating travel orders for another Resources Directorate member to Ellsworth AFB, S.D., to help with processing hurricane evacuation orders.

“I came back here TDY to keep the mission going in the right direction, and I started with an effort to triage what’s most important,” he said.

As he executes the mission, he can’t help but think of his colleagues and friends in the area who are dealing with a very lengthy recovery.

“I really feel for my teammates because they have a long road ahead of them,” he said. “I am very fortunate I don’t have to deal with the same recovery they are going through. We’re not talking about just putting up drywall. They have to strip their houses down to the studs and rebuild from the ground up.

Smith said Sheffield is a perfect example of the Wingman culture.

“Because Scott is focused on the mission, they can focus on their recovery,” he said.