By Tom Shull
This time last year, Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm, slammed into the panhandle of Florida, with Tyndall Air Force Base taking a direct hit.
Last week, I visited the base on the first anniversary of the catastrophic storm. One year later, there is still work to be done, but the dedication of our associates at Tyndall is deeply moving.
It was such a privilege to personally thank Tyndall associates. Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dave Nelson, Senior Enlisted Advisor Chief Master Sgt. Luis Reyes, Eastern Region Senior Vice President Bob White and South East Region Vice President Jesse Martinez Jr. joined me in honoring these passionate teammates, who have been a vital part of the installation’s recovery.
In difficult times, we see people’s true character. These associates’ passion and commitment to serving Airmen and families, as well as the many troops called in to help with the recovery, shined through the darkness cast by the hurricane.
For many months after Michael, the Express was the only building on Tyndall that was illuminated at night, earning it the nickname “The Light of Hope.” The Tyndall Exchange has provided the community with many things—fuel, food, supplies—but most important, it has provided hope during difficult times.
This team came together to clear debris and get the main store and Express operating again, even while their own homes lacked electricity and needed repairs.
A mobile field Exchange arrived just days after the storm. It provided basic necessities for Airmen that were hard to come by, and associates worked long hours to get it stocked and ready to serve the community.
Immediately after the storm, it seemed unthinkable that the Tyndall Exchange could be operating before the holidays—there was even a question of whether the base would be shut down entirely.
And yet about six weeks after Hurricane Michael, the main Exchange opened to the troops, who bought clothes, sleeping bags, camping gear and more.
And a year later, the Exchange team is still shining, still bringing hope.
Army Strong! Air Force Strong! Exchange Strong!