Several of Tyndall’s primary missions could be operating by the beginning of the new year, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Thursday during a visit with Vice President Mike Pence to observe recovery operations. The “schoolhouse,” where F-22 pilots from across the country train on flight simulators, should be up and running by Jan. 1. And many of the 325th Fighter Wing’s F-22s will be returning for training to Eglin AFB, located about 80 miles west of Tyndall. “We can’t fly aircraft out of Tyndall at the moment,” Wilson said, reported Military.com. “But by Thanksgiving, we will have F-22s in the skies over the Panhandle.” Wilson also said the Air Force Northern Command Air Operations Center, which is staffed by 800 airmen, would return from Langley AFB, Va. “We want to get back to initial operating capability by the first of January,” she said. … Col. Brian Laidlaw, commander of the 325th Fighter Wing, said he was encouraged by the results of an ongoing building assessment. To date, personnel have surveyed 503 buildings, about half the base’s total. No more than 30 percent of those buildings are a total loss and many critical areas did not receive as much damage as initially believed, reported the News Herald. “Today we have come so much further than I could have ever imagined when I came out of that ride out shelter that night,” Laidlaw said. … Pence, meanwhile, affirmed the administration’s support for restoring Tyndall. “President Trump and I are committed to providing the resources necessary to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base so that it can continue to be a vital and critical part of our national defense,” Pence said. Wilson said the Air Force has committed $100 million to recovery efforts so far. … In the two weeks since Hurricane Michael made landfall just miles from Tyndall, hundreds of civil engineering airmen have successfully restored basic necessities to the installation. A total of 1,000 support personnel from Tyndall and other installations are working to repair base infrastructure and build bare-bones facilities, reports the 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs.
Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kelly Walker