JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
Virginia Air National Guard Airmen evacuated U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors and T-38 Talons ahead of hurricane Florence from Joint Base Langley-Eustis and set up shelters in the local community, Sept. 11, 2018.
The forecast for hurricane Florence had a potential impact on the area of Hampton Roads. The 1st and 192nd Fighter Wings made the call to evacuate the jets to Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio, after Gov. Ralph Northam issued the order to evacuate some areas of Coastal Virginia Sept. 10.
“To prepare for the natural disaster, the Guard crew chiefs worked hand-in-hand with the active duty guys and got everything situated and squared away,” said Staff Sgt. Robert McCormack, 192nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “We had to deconstruct the locations so that nothing floated off, or if there were any high winds, you didn’t have chocks flying around that could damage other stuff. You just had to clear the flight line.”
The 1st and 192nd FWs work closely together on the F-22 mission as associate wings of the USAF and ANG respectively.
“It was a little hectic … we had to get all the forms, everyone running around, getting all the jets all fired up and doing our best to get them to fly and get them out of here as soon as possible,” said Airman 1st Class Steven Stockstill, 27th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief. “While the F-22s were gone they sent everyone out of the area to get them safe and evacuated out of the areas.”
Not all members of the VaANG evacuated as they had an additional responsibility to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Tech. Sgt. Christopher Good, 192nd Maintenance Group aerospace ground equipment technician, was a good example of what that responsibility entailed. As a full-time military technician, he performed his duties during the week leading up to the potential landfall of hurricane Florence to ensure all the ground equipment needed to receive the jets in Ohio was shipped off ahead of time. Then he worked to secure the building on Langley Air Force Base in case of flooding or high wind conditions.
Long before the hurricane was a threat, Good, along with others, had volunteered for a mission to help set up disaster relief shelters. Later that day, he got the call putting him on state active duty for exactly that. He made plans for his relatives and pets to leave for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, if need be. Good arrived at Christopher Newport University in Newport News the next day to help start setting up state-managed shelters in the gymnasium.
More than 90 members of the VaANG, including Airmen from the 192nd MXG and Logistics Readiness Flight, worked the shelters at CNU and the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. The 203rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers Squadron of Virginia Beach delivered supplies. There were numerous state civilians and Virginia State Police personnel supervising welfare and safety.
“When I visited the shelter, one of the guys asked how the jets landed while he was unloading baggage and readying to set up cots for the shelter,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Hummel, 192nd MXG deputy commander. “Our Airmen helped shelter $6 billion worth of aircraft and equipment, then helped shelter the priceless lives of our fellow citizens.”
After the threat of the storm passed and the shelters closed, VaANG Airmen were involved in the recovery of the jets the next day so the F-22 mission could get back on track as soon as possible, showcasing the unique role of the guard in support of the country, state and community.