TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - Resilient. Sustainable. Adaptable. This was the mantra of Air Force planners, community leaders and industry representatives collaborating on the rebuild of Tyndall Air Force Base during an industry day held near the base Sept. 12.
Nearly a year after Hurricane Michael caused massive destruction to Tyndall and Bay County on Oct. 10, 2018, the Air Force and local community are rebuilding and looking to the future.
The event, held at the Panama City campus of Florida State University, is the third industry day to team private industry with Air Force planners and community representatives since recovery began. The goal, according to officials, is to build a base that is needed, not the one that previously existed.
Rebuilding Tyndall as a 21st century, digitally integrated facility integral to the nation’s defense requires creativity and ideas from outside the normal lines of thinking, said Brig. Gen. Patrice Melancon, the executive director of the reconstruction program management office. She urged attendees to bring their best ideas and to collaborate.
“We have a huge task ahead of us,” Melancon told the audience of more than 500 attendees. “We’ve asked folks to come here and share their ideas with us. These are ideas we hope will spark some thought and spark hope.”
Col. Brian Laidlaw, commander of the host-base 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall, rode out the storm on the installation and is well aware of the importance of industry day and the magnitude of the task ahead.
“What we are doing is bigger than any one person,” Laidlaw said. “This effort is going to require close coordination between Bay County and the base.”
Both Laidlaw and Melancon said “resiliency” is a word that resonates throughout the Panhandle, where blue tarps continue to cover damage to more than 70 percent of Bay County structures, along with most of Tyndall. It also describes the men and women driving the efforts to rebuild a base that will lead the United States into the future.
“By the numbers, our staff is back to 85 percent, but working out of 50 percent of our buildings,” Laidlaw said. “We are flying more F-22s today per week than we were prior to the hurricane. We are getting the mission done.”
The importance of rebuilding Tyndall can’t be exaggerated, said Tom Neubauer, president of the Bay Defense Alliance.
“There’s a very close relationship between the community and Tyndall,” he said. “The military members here have always been very involved in every aspect of community life. We cannot imagine what life would be like without Tyndall Air Force Base.”
In addition to acknowledging the importance of the Bay County-Tyndall relationship, Neubauer said the support that’s been sent hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“The Air Force has sent us its best planners, engineers and experts who have really focused on what this should look like,” he said. “I’m very impressed with all that has been done by the Air Force and with AFCEC (Air Force Civil Engineer Center) and AFIMSC (Air Force Installation Mission Support Center) to make sure the best experts are here onsite.”
Laidlaw echoed Neubauer’s comments by pointing out the rebuild of Tyndall is a team effort that takes the investment, commitment and desire to move forward -- an effort that has greatly benefitted by the help of important partners.
“AFIMSC has sent to Tyndall its champions,” he said. “This is a tremendous partnership between AFCEC, AFIMSC and combat management.”