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NEWS | Oct. 6, 2017

Keeping our families in mind

By Senior Airman Thomas T. Charlton Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

When a natural disaster impacts where family and loved ones live, they tend to be what you worry about the most. However, as a member of the United States military, you also have to balance the responsibility of responding to overall relief efforts.

Shane Brunner, father of 1st Lt. Jeffrey Brunner, 14th Airlift Squadron, had moved to Marathon, Florida, a city in the Florida Keys, one week before Hurricane Irma made landfall.

“My dad wanted to evacuate, but his friend insisted on staying,” said Brunner. “My dad chose to stay with his friend to ensure nothing happened to him. I knew dad was staying and it worried me, but I figured he would just ride it out.”

Lt. Col. Alan Partridge, 437th Operations Support Squadron director of operations, heard about Brunner’s father being in Marathon and learned Brunner had lost contact with him after the hurricane hit. Partridge decided to help locate Brunner’s father and get him in contact with his son. Partridge was involved in C-17 stage management in order to maintain communication and control of the fleet when the C-17s were relocated and staged at an intermediate location.

“I saw it as a part of what the wing leadership charged us to do as the C-17 stage management: to take care of the aircrews while off-station,” said Partridge. “I didn't know Brunner, in fact, I've only talked to him once which was after we found his dad. However, I do know from experience as a C-17 aircraft commander, you always want everyone on your crew to be focused on the mission. Capt. Keane Carpenter, 14th AS pilot, was Brunner's aircraft commander, so I started a dialogue with him regarding the progress of the search. I checked on Brunner's well-being through him.”

Partridge began his efforts to find Brunner’s father on Sept. 11, the day after Irma hit the Keys. The process involved working with members from here, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, Travis Air Force Base, California and Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

“The search started off slowly, and I hit lots of dead ends,” said Partridge. “It took about 48 hours of searching, during lulls in the stage operations and when I was off shift, to get a good lead.  After Irma went through, there was no power or cell service in Marathon. I started the search through the 618th Air Operations Center Tanker Airlift Control Center from Scott AFB, asking if they had any contact information there. The first day, they didn’t have anything. I called other organizations looking for anyone who might have satellite phone contact info, but no luck.”

Partridge found out a local C-17 crew was scheduled to go to Marathon from Travis AFB and obtained the aircrew and tail number information. Partridge got a satellite phone connection and over the course of three and a half days, finally heard from the team. They found Brunner’s father and sent him to their tactical operations center where he was able to speak to his son.

“It was great hearing from him,” said Brunner. “He seemed a little bit shaken but I felt he had more comfort in hearing my voice than anything. He spoke very highly of everyone who was helping him and said he was treated amazingly. It was a remarkable effort by everyone involved and it extended out even further than I could have imagined. I didn’t quite understand how many people were involved in it until the end and I am thankful for each and every one of them and each part they played.”