By Col. Charles Beck, 45th Mission Support Group commander
/ Published September 12, 2008
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- My nearly two months as the commander of the 45th Mission Support Group have been very exciting and, simply put, I'm amazed at our Mission Support Group's level of preparedness and professionalism. Let me share just a few of my observations and why I feel this way.
Being hurricane season, we first geared up and prepared for Tropical Storm Fay, which dropped more than two feet of rain on us, creating a fishing lake over the golf course and an Olympic-sized pool in a launch facility at the Cape. The following week we stood up again for Hurricane Hanna and then immediately for Ike.
The men and women of Patrick, Cape Canaveral and particularly, because I'm biased, within Mission Support Group, have given me great confidence in our capabilities by not missing a beat in providing outstanding mission support to assure success of the Wing's launch, range and expeditionary operations, as well as comprehensive support to our mission partners during these storms.
"The Dam Boys" as they are affectionately called, were out sealing doors with their fabricated "door dams," which keep water out of facilities. Major Steve Finn's Civil Engineer team, under the watchful guidance of veteran George Robbins, was out doing assessments and responding to flooding, leaks, broken sewer and water lines, plus other damage reports during and after the storm. Their efforts spanned 24-7, and were critically important to significantly minimized damage to our Airmen's homes, base facilities and roads. Our fire fighters lost their station house due to a foot of water, relocated twice, and never once lost a second of response capability.
Col. John Gilmour's Contracting Squadron is very busy with more end-of-year contracts than ever. Just walk the second floor of Building 423 in the evening or weekends and you will see many professionals like Sherri Robinson, who normally would have a staff of eight, working with just four employees, preparing to lose one more Airman to deployment and still getting it done. Continue on down the hallways and you may see Airman 1st Class Paul Haynicz, who worked the last two weekends, running out the door after 6 p.m. to get a bite to eat, only to return to finish another contract.
Now take an immediate left into the cubicle area and I bet you will find Antonio Cazares working diligently to train four apprentices and yes, simultaneously working to complete contracts. (Note to self... when you are training new people to learn the dynamics of contracting there are no simple yes or no answers even for the experienced contracting specialists.) Antonio keeps his September sanity with a copy of "Dilbert's Principles" close to his right hand.
Lt. Col. Bill Cannon's Security Forces Airmen and Guard Force kept me in awe as I watched them operate in the midst of the heaviest rain recorded in local history. Patrolmen like Airmen Dahmen and Ward responded to incidents throughout the storm ... from a boat sinking in the Marina, to another patrol looking for high water spots on Highway A1A, where downed electrical lines blocked the highway. Our guard professionals remained on post to assist mission essential personnel and emergency response vehicles without complaint. As I watched this, I knew our public safety was well in hand.
Maj. Pat White is the commander of the newly formed and critically important Force Support Squadron. In the Personnel Flight, Capt Rob Hubb's team of experts were hard at work advising the Emergency Operations Center on the recourses available to civilian personnel for potential shelter-in-place and evacuation decisions. Our Airman and Family Readiness Center professionals ensured family members of deployed Airmen were informed of the base's status and our senior leadership decisions. Sue Pollock, and her Child Development Center's child care specialists, weathered the storms and remained open to support the emergency responders and others who had to work.
Many people are unaware our Space Coast Inn team members like Barry Cantor, Kristen Champion, Richard Costen, and Ray Homler "kept the lights on" and provided dry accommodations for over 200 lodging guests that included Key West Naval Air Station evacuees and displaced FAMCAMPers. I would be very remiss if I did not mention A.J. Welch and our Riverside Dining team. This dedicated team of heroes fed our personnel three meals a day, every day. And after the storm, our fitness centers' teams recovered their facilities and were back in business days earlier than expected.
Our Logistic Readiness Flight led by Capt. Brian Fariss continued to logistically ready the base in response to Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricanes Hanna and Ike. All the while in the midst of storm preparations our Logistic Readiness Flight's military, civilian and contracting Professionals like Tech Sgt. "Scooter" Haywood and Airman Brian Munro, supported our mission partner, the 920th Rescue Wing. Our logistics team processed 68 920th Airmen ahead of the revised tasking order to meet Central Command's deployment requirements for a 365 day Afghanistan deployment. Even with all this going on, our LRF was still able to put on a great Assumption of Command ceremony welcoming their new Commander; Major Brian Dewey.
Another amazing storm story was seen at the Cape and called "The Battle with Tropical Storm Fay and Lt. Col. Rob Quigg's "Quigglets" ... Who are the Quigglets? A highly motivated team of fire fighters, security, civil engineers, plumbers, electricians and support personnel. They worked around the clock to achieve a nearly impossible feat - save a multi-million dollar facility, as the 25 by 20 foot subfloor was flooded with five feet of water. Just two more inches of water and the facility would be lost. The Quigglets: Bob VanVondren, Jim Murphy, Roger Blevins and several other unsung security and support personnel would not give in and worked feverishly to break holes in the subflooring foundation, fabricate a pumping system that consisted of hastily made 10 inch diameter pipes with lines reaching over 30 yards, and a fire pumper truck to lower water levels. After 13 hours they had the water receding and the facility was saved.
The observations I have cited are just a sampling of the sights and sounds of the great dedication and commitment in our Tiger Shark team. If I or one of our other shark commanders were to write this story tomorrow... the events, teams and professionals may be vastly different; however, the testimony of commitment, dedication and professionalism would remain the same.