TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Approximately six weeks after Hurricane Michael devastated Tyndall Air force Base, the Exchange opened the doors of the main store to a grateful community on Nov. 28, underscoring the organization’s mission of going where the troops go, regardless of location or condition.
“It’s been a real challenge, but we’ve done everything in our power to get the store back open,” said acting General Manager Lillian Pena. “The hard work paid off, and the service members were so happy when we opened those doors. Once again, we are able to support their needs as they work to get their lives back in order.”
The Category 4 hurricane severely damaged the store’s roof and caused flooding. Five days after Michael’s landfall, the Exchange opened a mobile field exchange (MFE)—a store on wheels—providing those assisting with relief efforts supplies including toiletries, snacks and drinks. In the weeks that followed, associates worked tirelessly to get the main Exchange up and running.
On re-opening day, a steady stream of Soldiers, Airmen and relief workers bought everything from clothing to linens to sleeping bags and camping equipment. They expressed surprise that the Exchange was already back in business.
“We’ve either had to go pretty far off base or to the mobile exchange to get our daily supplies,” said Tech. Sgt. Jody Brennan, who deployed from Scott Air Force Base to assist with recovery. “For us, the Exchange opening back up gives us the opportunity to get the stuff that we need. But for all of the Airmen that are stationed here it means a lot more. For them it’s a sense of returning back to normalcy, which is very important.”
Most Tyndall Exchange associates suffered damage to their homes and were displaced, yet in the weeks after the hurricane still came to work, cleaning the store and doing whatever they could to expedite its reopening.
“These associates are dedicated to their job—taking care of the military,” Pena said. “Many of them had to drive hours each day just to be here but they are very passionate about what they do and this store reopening is a testament to that.”
The Express locations on Tyndall suffered more severe damage than the main store and will remain closed while the work continues. With the reopening of the main store, the MFE will cease operations. The main Exchange will be open Monday-Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.