By Jeremy Murray
MOBILE, Ala. – After Hurricane Michael hit Tyndall Air Force Base in October 2018, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District formed a partnership with the vision to build the “Installation of the Future.”
USACE provides many services for the Air Force, including humanitarian assistance and responding to natural disasters. Prior to Hurricane Michael, USACE engineers existed on the base to implement a small number of construction projects on a limited basis.
The Mobile District’s mission is to provide construction, maintain and operate key infrastructure projects that contribute to the nation’s economy, environment, safety and quality of life, not and in the future.
When Hurricane Michael hit Panama City, Florida, and Tyndall AFB in particular, the base received $5 billion in damages.
“Hurricane Michael destroyed 99 percent of the base,” said Col. Patrick Combs, Tyndall AFB Program Integration officer in charge. “What the Tyndall team has accomplished so far is remarkable considering the circumstances they were faced with when they took on the task of the rebuild.”
The Air Force decided to rebuild the base because it’s a strategic location, not only for the Air Force, but also for the Department of Defense to ensure air superiority. Tyndall adjoins the Gulf Range Complex, comprised of 180,000 square miles of training airspace over the Gulf of Mexico. The GRC is one of the few ranges in the U.S. capable of supporting large-scale air combat training. Direct access to this range is essential for fifth-generation fighter readiness, for fourth and fifth-generation fighter interoperability, and for live-fire testing and training.
The challenge of rebuilding the base became an opportunity for the Mobile District to deliver it support, and in the short four years since the storm hit, significant progress is being made in the multi-billion-dollar program.
One person who has seen the progress of the rebuild firsthand is Colleen Duffy, 325th Mission Support Group deputy director, who was working at Tyndall when Hurricane Michael hit.
“The base from October 10, 2018, to today is night and day,” said Duffy. “It’s amazing to see the base literally come out of the ground and rise from the damage of Hurricane Michael.”
To make Tyndall AFB into the installation of the future for the Air Force, the Tyndall team is ensuring the new buildings that make up the base withstand hurricane winds and rain, with top-of-the-line security and technology systems.
“The rebuild gives us the unique opportunity to reimagine how we accommodate the needs of the F-35,” said Col. Travis Leighton, Natural Disaster Recovery chief.
In May 2022, USACE was awarded a $532 million construction contract to deliver 11 projects that will directly support flightline operations for the F-35A Lightning II aircraft. The rebuild includes more than 40 military construction projects.
“Just in this past year USACE has been awarded $1.8 billion military construction projects, that are all breaking ground this year” said Col. Jeremy Chapman, USACE Mobile District commander. “Including the flightline facilities project, the biggest contract in Air Force history.”
While there has been tremendous progress at Tyndall, it is still a long road ahead.
“The Tyndall rebuild is to start delivering major facilities in 2025,” said Mike Dwyer, Air Force Civil Engineer Center deputy chief. “The complete closeout of the base is projected to be done between 2026 and 2027.”
To date the USACE are assisting with more than 40 new military construction, or MILCON, projects while simultaneously overseeing more than 100 new facilities in the reconstruction of Tyndall and will continue its partnership well after completion of the installation of the future.