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Duke team supports Tyndall Airmen

Airman & Family Readiness

Tech. Sgt. Molly Holzem, 919th Special Operations Force Support Squadron, analyzes resources available to assist service members and families from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 5, 2018. Holzem and another member of the Airman and Family Readiness Center from Duke Field have provided critical assistance to Airmen from nearby Panama City affect by Hurricane Michael. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jodi Ames)

Tyndall AFB Reception Center Sign

A makeshift sign on Eglin Air Force base, Florida, indicates the entrance to the Tyndall Reception Center. The center serves as a one-stop focal point for Tyndall based Airmen and their families who have questions related to housing, assignments and evacuation entitlements following Hurricane Michael. Members from the 919th Special Operations Wing at nearby Duke Field have play a key role in assisting with the TRC's daily operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jodi Ames)

DUKE FIELD, Florida -- Airman and Family Readiness professionals from Duke Field have played a vital role in the relief effort supporting Tyndall Air Force Base since Hurricane Michael made landfall and caused widespread damage across the Florida panhandle last month.

Kelly Ewert, director of Airman and Family Readiness for the 919th Special Operations Wing, and Tech. Sgt. Molly Holzem, 919th Special Operations Force Support Squadron, have been leading the A&FRC function as part of Task Force HARP (Housing, Assignments, Relocations and Posture), a total-force team of 36 dedicated personnel operating out of locations at Tyndall and Eglin Air Force Base.

“The purpose of the reception center is to serve as a one-stop focal point for Tyndall based Airmen and their families who have questions related to housing, assignments and evacuation entitlements,” Ewert said.

Shortly after the hurricane, Ewert and her team joined forces with military family support agencies throughout the region to provide assistance for Airmen, retirees, civilians and families displaced as a result of the catastrophic storm.

Initial relief efforts came in the form of coordinating information and resources, processing donations and distributing grants from helping agencies like Air Force Aid Society. In recent weeks, the effort has shifted to relocation assistance provided primarily through the Tyndall Reception Center located at Eglin AFB.

Other important agencies are also operating out of the center including school liaison officers, medical and EFMP coordinators, chaplain services, military and family life counselors, and representatives from the American Red Cross.

The center is staffed by experts from Air Force Personnel Center, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center and other support agencies from Tyndall and across the Air Force. Since it was established in mid-October, the center has since provided a number of support services to impacted Airmen and their families.

According to Col. Seth Frank, who is currently serving as the lead for Task Force HARP, the center is providing critical support both in person and over the phone.

“The phones are ringing off the hook,” he noted.

While relocations have been top-of-mind for those already identified for assignments, Airmen visiting and calling the reception center have sought assistance on a wide range of topics.

“We’ve become a hub for all kinds of questions.” said Frank. “Even if it’s not necessarily our team who can help or provide information, we can point people in the right direction for the resources they need.”

Tyndall Airmen have also served as an important part of the effort at Eglin, Frank said.

“Many families have questions about what to do with their homes and authorizations to get their belongings out,” he explained. “We have TMO Airmen from the 325th Fighter Wing (based at Tyndall AFB) here working right alongside the AFPC folks. These are Tyndall Airmen. Many of them had their homes destroyed and are in the same situation as those we are assisting. So for them, it has been good to be here helping their own.”

School decisions have also been a primary concern for impacted families and their children.

“The school situation has been one of the biggest source of questions,” said Frank. “We have a [School Liaison Officer] hotline that Airmen can call. They can also come here to ask questions and get assistance.”

As of Nov. 8, Task Force HARP had fielded thousands of calls and issued nearly 398 Air Force Aid Society grants totaling more than $521,000 in assistance.

Ewert and her team have also been providing direct support to Duke Field Airmen who have either been affected by the storm or know someone who has.

During the November unit training assembly, A&FRC hosted two separate meetings with representatives from several local support agencies. Dozens of Airmen of all ranks attended the forum to discuss their experiences, Ewert said.

Duke Field A&FRC also hosted a Hurricane Michael relief information fair to provide services and resources for 919th SOW Citizen Airmen.

Airmen affected by Hurricane Michael can contact the Total Force Service Center at (210) 565-0102 or (800) 525-0102. Updates and current information are available at www.tyndall.af.mil, the Tyndall AFB Facebook page and the Air Force Personnel Center website.