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Tyndall AFB commander honored by local chamber

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Airmen from the 823rd RED HORSE Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla., clear a downed tree at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 20, 2018 as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael. Air Combat Command has mobilized multiple relief assets in an effort to restore operations after the hurricane caused catastrophic damage to the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

A fallen communication tower lays at the foot of the 81st Range Control Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 19, 2018. Despite Hurricane Michael leaving destruction in its wake, the 81st RCS was brought back online and provided command and control for the first live mission in the skies over the Tyndall Range Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Isaiah J. Soliz)

A fallen communication tower lays at the foot of the 81st Range Control Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 19, 2018. Despite Hurricane Michael leaving destruction in its wake, the 81st RCS was brought back online and provided command and control for the first live mission in the skies over the Tyndall Range Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Isaiah J. Soliz)

Tyndall innovators restore air operations

Construction crews work to repair the damaged air traffic control tower at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 18, 2019. The tower suffered catastrophic damage when Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle Oct. 10, 2018. While the tower is repaired and rennovated, air traffic control capabilities were moved to a mobile tower. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander Martinez)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Overstreet, 178th Communications Squadron client systems from the Ohio Air National Guard, prepares a cable for connection at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, June 18, 2019.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Overstreet, 178th Communications Squadron client systems from the Ohio Air National Guard, prepares a cable for connection at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, June 18, 2019. The 178th CF helped restore the emergency mass notification system coverage (giant voice) and completed premise wire installation of over 300 cables (about 8,000 feet) and connections, testing them to restore communication infrastructure in the Weapons Evaluation Group Headquarters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anthony Nin Leclerec)

Staff Sgt. Jason Vogt, 325th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog (MWD) handler, directs his MWD, Sunny, to jump over a barrier during an obstacle course run, June 20, 2019, on Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. MWD Sunny is the first permanent party dog to arrive at Tyndall since Hurricane Michael destroyed the base in October 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Trent Olson, 85th Engineering Installation Squadron cable antenna maintenance technician, sorts underground cabling at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Dec. 9, 2019. Olson is part of a team working with the 325th Communications Squadron to relocate a node from a building that was damaged by Hurricane Michael. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Clayton Lenhardt)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Trent Olson, 85th Engineering Installation Squadron cable antenna maintenance technician, sorts underground cabling at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Dec. 9, 2019. Olson is part of a team working with the 325th Communications Squadron to relocate a node from a building that was damaged by Hurricane Michael. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Clayton Lenhardt)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Askegren, 325th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, plants a longleaf pine tree at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Jan. 15, 2020. Askegren, along with several other teammates, planted the first longleaf pines as part of a long term, large scale restoration project to restore Tyndall's ecosystem. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Magen M. Reeves)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Askegren, 325th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, plants a longleaf pine tree at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Jan. 15, 2020. Askegren, along with several other teammates, planted the first longleaf pines as part of a long term, large scale restoration project to restore Tyndall's ecosystem. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Magen M. Reeves)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --

The Bay County Chamber of Commerce in Panama City, Florida, honored Col. Brian Laidlaw, 325th Fighter Wing commander, at their annual awards ceremony in January.

The Chamber presented Laidlaw with the Chairman’s Award for Tyndall AFB’s resiliency and contributions to Bay County’s recovery after Hurricane Michael. The Chairman’s Award has only been awarded on five other occasions for outstanding service to the community.

Public Affairs reached out to the commander to discuss what receiving this award meant to him.

Q: Were you surprised to receive a Chairman’s Award from the chamber?

A: “I was humbled, happy and proud to accept this award from the Bay County Chamber of Commerce. This award is not about me, it is about Team Tyndall, our friends and neighbors downtown, and everyone who had a part in making Tyndall better today than it was yesterday. This award means lot to me because it comes from the community [who] supported Tyndall in its darkest hours. It comes from a community [who] welcomes Tyndall Airmen and makes it home for all of us.”

Q: Why do you believe you received a Chairman’s Award?

A: “We received this award because of all of the hard work, ingenuity and resilience of the outstanding team of Airmen and civilians who support the Tyndall mission day in and day out. That kind of teamwork is vital to our success. Without our partners throughout the Air Force and Bay County, we would not have been able to react the way we did after the storm. I am proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them all, and I share this award with them.”

Q: What does receiving this award represent?

A: “The strong relationship between Tyndall Airmen and the citizens of Bay County made this award possible. Our relationship with the community dates back to World War II. The relationship is strong and built on the mutual respect we’ve had with Bay County for almost 80 years. It was a real privilege to honor that relationship by receiving the Chairman’s Award.”

Q: What does it mean to you to receive this award?

A: “This award means Team Tyndall’s efforts did not go unnoticed by the community. I accepted the Chairman’s Award, but Team Tyndall earned it. This award is a reminder of the valuable contributions we have made to this community, and the impact this community has made on our Air Force.”

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add about receiving this award?

A: “This award underscores the Air Force’s commitment to building positive relationships with the communities surrounding our bases. Our Airmen and their families are integral parts of the community. This was another opportunity to [highlight] the Air Force does all it can to be a good neighbor and a positive force in those communities where Airmen have the privilege to serve.”

Hurricane Michael hit Tyndall AFB Oct. 10, 2018, as a Category 5 storm. Assessments were done and recovery operations started immediately.

The rare magnitude of destruction damaged 484 buildings — half of which need to be demolished —  and forced the Air Force to relocate 11,000 personnel and 46 aircraft. Almost every building on Tyndall sustained damage. Some were damaged beyond repair.

The Air Force allocated around $600 million toward immediate repairs.

As of October 2019, Tyndall was operating with about 80 percent of its prior personnel capacity, in 50 percent of the facilities, while accomplishing 90 percent of its mission.

While repair and construction will be continuous for the next 4 to 5 years, the Air Force is taking a holistic look at the installation and developing a master plan to build a 21st Century Air Base.