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NEWS | Oct. 14, 2016

Team Charleston weathers the storm

By Staff Sgt. William A. O’Brien Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

As Hurricane Matthew approached the Eastern Coast of the United States, residents of South Carolina were given an evacuation order by Governor Nikki Haley. Based on this, Joint Base Charleston leadership made the determination to issue a Limited Evacuation Order.  

With limited personnel following an evacuation, the task of safely storing or moving major equipment, including 28 C-17 Globemaster IIIs, from the base’s four geographically separated locations along with evacuating almost 23,000 base employees and their families was left to a ride out team of about 400 members.

While Joint Base Charleston was preparing for the storm, an office had already planned for this day and this type of potential disaster. The 628th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) emergency management flight works with each mission partner identifying unique needs they may have for any potential emergency. The 628th CES then creates a plan to address that particular emergency and for Hurricane Matthew. This meant not only helping to make the decision to evacuate but preparing those who would remain on base.

Because of the diverse missions of JB Charleston, the requirements include supplying food, water and shelter for the team members who stayed behind. Additional logistical concerns ranged from evacuating the largest C-17 fleet in the Air Force, evacuating and finding shelter for more than 3,000 Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit students and providing support to the prisoners and staff at the Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston.

“Many people look at joint basing as a huge challenge, and it certainly is, but it is also a great opportunity,” said Sarah Winberry, 628th CES installation emergency manager. “We get opportunities at Joint Base Charleston other installations never get to experience.”

Once every mission partner has an established plan for each emergency, the 628th CES emergency management flight, compiles a list of supporting agencies. These agencies provide mission partners with the resources to survive the storm along with a team to begin the recovery process after the storm passes. The team remaining on base during the storm is known as a “ride-out team.”  For a category two hurricane, approximately 400 members from 23 different joint base units are needed to fulfill the duties of the ride-out team.

When the worst of the high winds and heavy rains from Hurricane Matthew subsided Saturday, the ride- out team, led by the 628th CES operations flight, began assessing the damage and restoring the base to full operational status.

“Our ride-out team was phenomenal,” said Danny Dean, 628th CES operations flight deputy director. “The ride-out team worked so effectively I was able to tell our recovery team they didn’t need to return until Tuesday.”

As members returned to JB Charleston on Tuesday, they were welcomed back at each gate by installation leadership from across the base.

The Emergency Family Assistance Center (EFAC) was activated Oct. 12 to assist evacuated personnel upon their return. The EFAC is a consolidated location where families can receive disaster relief contingency information and services. It will remain open through Oct. 14 both on the Air Base and the Naval Weapons Station.

“Thank you, Joint Base Charleston,” said Col Robert Lyman, Joint Base Charleston commander. “Your performance during Hurricane Matthew was humbling to watch. You remained calm in the lead up to the storm and in the midst of many complicated tasks. You remained focused on those mission essential tasks we had to complete and on keeping people safe and evacuating families. You remained ready for the storm event itself but also to bring the base back to its full range of readiness to support the host of joint base missions we have here in Charleston, once again making Joint Base Charleston the launch point for the nation’s resolve.”