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The rest of the story - untold tales of Charley

by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
Thunderbolt staff writer

The threat of a hurricane is a problem personnel at MacDill rarely have had to face head-on. Sure, there is a small chance every year of a storm heading into the Tampa Bay, but so far MacDill has been spared and the threat remains. The regular training and procedures, which already are in place, were put to the test recently when Hurricane Charley came barreling our way.

While it would be nearly impossible to mention everyone's individual actions during that hectic and challenging time, there are a few personal performances which stand out above the rest.

Tech. Sgt. Casey Buxton and Staff Sgt. Jonathon Wilson, 6th Maintenance Operations Squadron, burned the oil late into the morning of Aug. 13 trying to get the last aircraft off the ground. Master Sgt. Scott Gorenc, Maintenance Operations Center superintendent, said the two hand-picked technicians were the epitome of service before self.

"I had total confidence in them," said Sergeant Gorenc. "I knew any decision they made would benefit the wing."

Due to their experience and dedication to the job, they were able to complete an engine change in near-record time he said. Unfortunately, further maintenance problems put the aircraft in Hanger 2 to ride out the storm.

Staff sergeants Robert Jamison and Scott Albee deployed the MOC to the Florida State Fairgrounds with zero loss of continuity. They stayed with the MOC center through the disaster threat before finally returning to MacDill.

Airman 1st Class Paul Hofer, 6th MOS, was another trooper who took care of his section and for other offices in Building 54.

"I took care of all the electrical equipment and made sure they were bagged and off the floor," said Airman Hofer, explaining that although his Air Force specialty code didn't include this, he took care of what needed to be done.

He came in Sunday following the hurricane and hooked up his section's computers to ensure the office was mission capable and operational first thing Monday morning for the Maintenance Group and wing briefings.

Allen McCloud, 6th AMXS, learned of a cracked compressor blade on one of an aircraft's engine compressor blades. He came in at 12:05 a.m. to review history of the jet, then coordinated which aircraft was to be used during engine replacement with the 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 6th Maintenance Squadron.

During normal duty hours, he coordinated with Air Mobility Command to update it on MacDill's situation. He alone prepared the office for Hurricane Charley and departed for his residence at noon.

The following Sunday morning, Mr. McCloud came in to unwrap the office and assist the scheduling section unwrapping its office. Both sections were fully mission capable and operational that Monday morning.

MacDill personnel heard whispers of a possible visit to the Fort Myers area by President George W. Bush. The 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron realized if a visit were to take place, aircraft equipment and support would be needed and proximity would most likely deem MacDill the perfect source of such support. Leaning forward, going on information that was flimsy at best, the 6th LRS troops worked through driving rain to load two trailers with 12 pieces of equipment and to prepare the necessary equipment to make the possible trip south. The call came Aug. 15 at 8 p.m.

2nd Lt. Randy Harvey, 6th Maintenance Squadron, said thanks to the advanced preparations, the 6th LRS had a plan and was ready to execute within an hour. Aug. 16 at 2 a.m., a nine-vehicle caravan, led by the 6th Maintenance Group personnel, directed a team of 15 tired but motivated individuals down Interstate 75 to the Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers. They arrived on time around 6 a.m. and quickly set up their equipment. Two 6th Wing Security Forces Squadron members met them at the airport and quickly cordoned off the fuel trucks. Staff Sgt. Marvin Rhodes, 6th AMXS, delivered air-stairs to the president just after Airman 1st Class Jeff Simmons, 6th LRS, chocked Air Force One.

Staff Sgt. Victor Gruber worked with Tech .Sgt. Kevin Rehling installing plywood on the windows and bagged computers for his section and for other offices in Building 54. Capt. James Batchelor, 6th Contracting Squadron; 2nd Lt. Sisco Ortiz, 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron; Master Sgt. Timothy McConnaughey, 6th Medical Support Squadron and hundreds more went above and beyond what was expected. Be sure to check page 7 for a more in-depth list of Hurricane Charley outstanding performers.

While the possibility of another hurricane is brewing in the Carribean, leadership and personnel alike can be assured of the dedicated individuals here ready to spring into action. Whether performing maintenance on a multi-million dollar plane or boarding up windows, MacDill is in good hands with the Airmen who are prepared to go the distance.

 

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