DoD Active as Ivan Bears Down on U.S. Gulf Coast
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2004 With Hurricane Ivan threatening the U.S. Gulf Coast, military units are taking action today to protect their people and aircraft and to ease the effects of the storm's inevitable aftermath.
Officials at Eglin Air Force Base, on Florida's Panhandle near Fort Walton Beach and Destin, issued an evacuation order at 6 a.m. today. All military and civilian workers not in "mission critical" positions at the sprawling base were placed on administrative leave. They must be gone by 4 p.m., must be at least 100 miles away by 10 a.m. Sept. 15, and may stay where they choose, said Capt. Kristi Beckman, public affairs officer for the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin.
Shelters are available at Robins Air Force Base and Fort Benning in Georgia, she said, for Eglin personnel who don't have a specific evacuation destination. The Air Force, Beckman added, has set up a toll-free line Eglin members can call for information on when to return to duty: (800) 435-9941.
More than two dozen F-15 Eagles from the 33rd Fighter Wing have left Eglin for safe haven at Dyess Air Force Base near Abilene, Texas. Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., has dispersed nearly 100 aircraft and secured dozens more in hangars.
At 11:45 a.m. today, no overall evacuation order had yet been issued at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., spokesman Ed Barker said. But the station's flight and aviation maintenance classes have been suspended, he noted, and the 4,000 students have fanned out to 16 designated shelters at schools and similar structures in the area to ride out the storm and to help officials set up and run the shelters.
More than 230 helicopters and fixed-wing training aircraft have from Pensacola to Naval Air Station Millington, Tenn. Many, Barker said, already had been scheduled for nonlocal training flights later in the week to another destination, but the evacuation has enabled that training requirement to be met while getting the aircraft out of Ivan's way, Barker said. About 1,250 Marines assigned at Pensacola have moved to the Marine Corps logistics base at Albany, Ga.
Defense Department officials said DoD is working closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide life-saving and life-sustaining resources to the affected area. The department already has provided water, ice and temporary housing through the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Joint Staff, U. S. Northern Command and the National Guard Bureau are working with states and FEMA to formulate a plan of action to establish "commodity distribution centers" in Ivan's immediate aftermath, officials said.
At FEMA's request, DoD also has provided 31 people to coordinate the department's efforts with federal, state and local officials; centers at 10 military bases to serve as logistics hubs and staging areas for FEMA; long- range satellite communication capability; and medical augmentation.
More than 5,000 Army and Air National Guard personnel -- more than 4,600 of them from Florida -- are engaged in disaster response, officials said.
At 2 p.m. EDT today, the National Weather Service reported Ivan was 405 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving to the north- northwest at 9 mph and packing top sustained winds of 140 mph.