Tyndall Reopens Base Exchange as 4,000 Airmen Return to Base

  • On re-opening day at the Tyndall Exchange, a steady stream of Soldiers, Airmen and relief workers visited the store. (Army & Air Force Exchange Service HQ/Chris Ward)
    On re-opening day at the Tyndall Exchange, a steady stream of Soldiers, Airmen and relief workers visited the store. (Army & Air Force Exchange Service HQ/Chris Ward)
  • A hangar at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, stands shredded after Hurricane Michael ripped through the base Oct. 11, 2018. (Screenshot from DoD video)
    A hangar at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, stands shredded after Hurricane Michael ripped through the base Oct. 11, 2018. (Screenshot from DoD video)
  • The 325th Maintenance Group's building at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, lies in ruins following Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10, 2018. Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander C. Henninger
    The 325th Maintenance Group's building at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, lies in ruins following Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10, 2018. Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander C. Henninger
  • Members of the Legendary 823rd REDHORSE convoyed from Hurlburt Field, Florida, to Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, to provide relief following Hurricane Michael, Oct. 11-12, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ryan Conroy)
    Members of the Legendary 823rd REDHORSE convoyed from Hurlburt Field, Florida, to Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, to provide relief following Hurricane Michael, Oct. 11-12, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ryan Conroy)

Several Tyndall Air Force Base services have returned to operation nearly 50 days after Hurricane Michael walloped Florida, rendering more than 95 percent of the Florida base's buildings non-operational.

Roughly 3,500 airmen are now stationed on Tyndall, while 575 are currently assigned on temporary duty there, according to Air Combat Command spokeswoman Leah Garton.

About 2,600 remain at various locations as the base continues to recover from the impact of Hurricane Michael, she said.

How the mixture of TDY and permanently stationed airmen are housed on base varies, said Technical Sgt. David Carbajal of the 325th Fighter Wing.

"Some of the permanent-party airmen have been given hardened lodging, and some of them are residing in Tent City, along with TDY personnel," Carbajal said in an email Nov. 27.

The service said earlier this month it is working to have at least roughly 1,500 airmen back at the base before the new year. And Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in recent weeks that all but 500 or so personnel will return in coming months.

"Approximately 90 percent of the base's personnel authorizations are expected to return to the base" in the future, another spokesperson from the 325th told Military.com.

The base exchange reopened Wednesday, while the Tyndall commissary reopened Nov. 17 to provide another grocery option for recovery personnel and Defense Department ID cardholders, Carbajal said.

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Since officials regranted airmen base access last month personnel have been involved in ongoing recovery efforts to assist in clearing debris and repairing buildings.

Last week, airmen even worked out ways to bring some missions back, participating in a live mission with the 58th Fighter Squadron from Eglin Air Force Base, according to a release. Airmen conducted command and control for air-to-air and air-to-ground live-fire missions during the exercise

Meanwhile, airmen who know their job will continue at Tyndall have until Feb. 28 to decide whether their dependents will live going forward. Airmen have three choices: their families can remain on or near Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama -- which was designated as Tyndall's "safe haven" location, they can choose to move elsewhere within the continental U.S., or they can come back to the area near Tyndall, according to the Air Force.

Those who stay at Maxwell will receive BAH for the Maxwell area. Those who choose to keep their families in the Panama City area or within a 20-mile radius of Tyndall will not be granted allowances. The member and "their dependents will receive the 'with dependents' [Basic Allowance for Housing] for Tyndall," the document says.

Personnel moving elsewhere will be granted the following entitlements: mileage or airfare reimbursement at the government rate; primary dislocation allowance, or DLA, at the "with dependent" rate; movement of household goods, determined by weight; and BAH at the "with dependent" rate for the area they move to once a primary residence is established within the first 30 days of selecting the designated location," it said.

Also included is family separation housing at the single rate for the member (FSH) as well as family separation allowance (FSA) if airmen are separated by orders from dependents for at least 31 days.

Airmen still awaiting placement can remain at the safe haven location until the service alerts them whether their mission has moved, according to a memorandum released by the 325th Comptroller Squadron.

"Once a location has been selected, [airmen] are authorized Safe Haven Evacuation Allowances for up to 30 calendar days to offset lodging, meals and incidental expenses while finding and establishing a permanent residence," the memo states.

A benefit permitting free child care for Tyndall families at certain providers is set to expire Dec. 1.

"The intent of the free child care was to provide financial assistance for displaced families while in their safe haven locations," Carbajal said. "After Dec. 1, the costs of child care will go back to the military member and their families."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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