Port in a Storm: Team Robins offers assistance during Hurricane Matthew

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In response to Hurricane Matthew’s steady trek along the coast of the southeastern U.S. last week, Team Robins members stood ready to respond when needed.

As mandatory evacuation orders were included for Georgia coastal counties such as Bryan, Chatham, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn and Camden counties, and multiple counties across Florida and South Carolina, one way Robins assisted was through the standup of the Emergency Family Assistance Center.

The EFAC, a one-stop shop located at the Airman and Family Readiness Center in Bldg. 797, served as a resource for information and referral as dozens of people fled areas affected by the hurricane. They began arriving after the EFAC stood up Oct. 6.

Representatives of the EFAC team not only included A&FRC personnel, but also workers from the Military Personnel Flight and Housing Office. Overall they assisted 145 individuals – many from Florida and South Carolina – who headed to Middle Georgia to seek safety and shelter.

Once the EFAC stood up, a steady trickle of evacuees arrived throughout the evening and early morning hours, giving the EFAC team plenty of time to individually assist each person. Assessments were made within 15 minutes, with questions such as how many dependents were travelling with them and if pets were included.

Once they were helped, evacuees, who came from all branches of service, were able to take shelter in base dormitories and lodging, as well as off base at a church and American Red Cross shelters  as needed.

“You can’t do this alone,” said Master Sgt. Avis Smith, Robins’ Readiness NCOIC. “When you have the right people in place, here at the Airman and Family Readiness Center, we have a lot of people who are perfect for assisting those in need. I’m impressed with their professionalism and all who were involved.”

“They offered a reassuring welcome and they meant it,” she added. “We had several (evacuees) who were just so grateful. They had amazing attitudes, and it was easy to see their resiliency just by the way they arrived.”

About 20 members made up the EFAC team, with shifts rotating to help when needed. All of the evacuees left Robins within 72 hours.

As the hurricane’s western eye wall approached areas such as Tybee Island, Georgia, and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, its hurricane-forced winds lashed the coast, resulting in flooding, downed trees and tens of thousands were left with no electricity.

The 116th Air Control Wing deployed 78 Air National Guardsmen to Savannah to assist with relief efforts in the hurricane’s aftermath. They included personnel in the fields of civil engineering, logistics, maintenance, security forces and public affairs. They returned Wednesday.

Working alongside the Chatham County Public Works Department, the 116th Civil Engineer Squadron assisted with such operations as road clearing and debris clean-up operations. The unit was able to use multi-purpose tractors with buckets, grappling hooks and brooms, tools needed to respond to disasters such as Hurricane Matthew.

Robins continued to assist by also offering use of its flight line to visiting aircraft. Four search and rescue helicopters stopped in Oct. 6 from Coast Guard Air Station Savannah to protect them from the storm as well as to support quick response search and rescue efforts.

According to news reports, Savannah’s Hunter Army Airfield served as a forward operating base for hurricane response efforts, to include shoreline and port damage assessments.