Air Force Civil Engineer Laboratory recovers from Hurricane Michael

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (Tyndall) - The Air Force Civil Engineer Center Laboratory on Tyndall Air Force Base plays a major role in preparing and equipping the Warfighter, and ultimately, our national security. So when Hurricane Michael's powerful eye passed over Tyndall recently, the storm did major damage. But due to resilience and determination and data storage, the super-strong Category 4 hurricane caused barely a hiccup to the "Battle ready, built right" mission.

Obliterated buildings, heavy equipment tossed around like it was a child's toy, massive destruction when Hurricane Michael roared directly over Tyndall Air Force Base on October 10th. Its 150-plus miles-per-hour winds and powerful storm surge took a physical toll on some of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center's Research and Development Laboratory buildings and equipment.

"Anybody who's been through a major flood in the Midwest, that's exactly what it looks like; water damage, the high water marks in the buildings are anywhere from 8 to 12 feet," Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Maj. John Stiles, the Acquisitions Program Manager, said.

"The power of the storm picking up 6-7,000 pound items and floating them and dropping them in the woods... it's just inconceivable, there's no words for it, but we're gonna pull through this," Air Force Civil Engineer Center Michael Mifsud, the Research Lab Site Manager, said.

In just a matter of days after the storm had passed, available personnel were on site safely assessing, cleaning up, and salvaging as much as possible.

"We had several of the water-tight hard-shelled cases that floated around during the storm and we opened the boxes and they're perfectly dry inside. So as a result, we've recovered over a million dollars in small unmanned aerial systems-or 'drones'. We've also recovered several million dollars of EOD robots," Air Force Civil Engineer Center Brian Skibba, the Civil Engineer Research Laboratory Manager, said.

"That's always exciting to see the human spirit to know, 'Hey, yeah, we definitely suffered a set-back but it's a temporary set-back,'" Stikes said.

Four total sites on Tyndall make up the R&D Aspect of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center and three of the four only received minimal damage with no storm water surge. The fire and rescue training facility, the explosives range, and the main lab are still intact and operational as toured and verified by Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Commander Major General Bradley Spacy.

Not all the news was bad for this site.

"We've had all these buildings structurally inspected by the Army Corps of Engineers and marked and most of the facilities that did not collapse are still structurally sound and can be reused. And really at the end of the day, the research lab is all about the people and the data and all of our servers survived. That's what is the heart of the research lab and the heart of what we do," Skibba said.