The Under Secretary of the Air Force, Matthew Donovan, and the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, thanked Airmen for their Hurricane Irma recovery efforts Sept. 20, at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.
“We came here to thank Airmen for their selfless service to their nation during Hurricane Irma,” said Donovan. “We are incredibly proud of their sacrifice.”
Donovan and Wilson were briefed on the full spectrum of efforts from the time leading up to the storm through the 45th Space Wing’s recovery phase.
“What really enabled us to do what we did, with opening up the airfield and welcoming back everyone to base, was the incredible people in our Crisis Action Teams and our mission partners,” said Col. Walter Jackim, 45th SW vice commander.
On Sept. 7, just minutes after the 45th SW successfully launched its 15th launch of the year, representing over one quarter of all launches worldwide in 2017, they began securing their installations for Hurricane Irma’s anticipated arrival.
“We immediately issued an evacuation order for all of our personnel on the barrier islands, rode out the storm and then within half a day after the storm passed we opened up our airfield to handle C-5 Galaxy aircraft bringing in Army HH-60 Blackhawks to be prepared for rescue and recovery operations,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th SW commander. “It was the first time in our history we’ve been tasked directly by U.S. Northern Command to support operations like this. Our wing doesn’t just launch rockets, it also takes care of people.”
As Hurricane Irma threatened the area early morning on Sept. 11, the installation was already preparing for reconstitution efforts. Eight hours after the worst of the storm passed, ‘weather safe’ was declared, and recovery efforts were under way.
Their efforts to bring the base back to normal operations within days of one of the largest hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic Ocean were recognized at the Pentagon.
After shaking hands with each member of the Hurricane Response Teams, senior leaders made their way to the 920th Rescue Wing to personally thank them for their rescue and recovery efforts for both Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
“We’ve seen fantastic leadership, a terrific mission and empowered Airmen,” said Wilson. “They know how they connect with the mission and the difference they are making with not only the base, but the community as well. We are grateful for the sacrifice from the Airmen and their families. They have tremendous spirit.”
Now that Patrick AFB and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station are back to normal operations, the 45th SW returns to its mission of assured access to space. Launch operations will resume in October.