In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, commissary officials are starting to assess the damage to the store at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, and are beefing up supplies at stores at nearby bases to help airmen and families displaced from Tyndall.
Commissaries at Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field have responded to requests from base officials at Tyndall for items like diapers, canned meats, bottled water, batteries, tuna, cereal, assorted health and beauty items and Gatorade.
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) has sent a 53-foot mobile field exchange to the area, and it’s expected to be up and running at Tyndall later this weekend, said AAFES spokesman Chris Ward.
This is an “exchange on wheels” with emergency supplies, toiletries, snacks and drinks, mainly to help those who are assisting in recovery efforts, he said. It will be located in the parking lot of the Express store.
The main store and the Express store were severely damaged, as were retailers outside the gate at Tyndall. But gas pumps are working now, he said.
There’s no timetable for restoring commissary services at Tyndall. The store sustained extensive damage. Crews continue to clear roads and restore power, water and sewage services.
In the days ahead, Defense Commissary Agency engineers and other support staff will assess the damage at the Tyndall commissary, work with base officials to determine the best process to restore commissary operations, and determine what is needed to help the base community, according to Robert J. Bianchi, DoD special assistant for commissary operations, in a press release outlining the initial plans.
“We will do whatever is possible to support the Tyndall community in the aftermath of Michael,” Bianchi said.
Aside from the Tyndall store, the only other stores in the path of Hurricane Michael that sustained any damage were those at Hurlburt Field, and at Marine Corps Logistics Base, Albany, Georgia. But those stores, and the others in the impact area, reopened immediately after the storm.
This damage occurred just a few weeks after Hurricane Florence, which damaged North Carolina commissaries at Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Station New River, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, and Fort Bragg South. The commissaries all reopened within a week, but the stores most affected by Hurricane Florence are expected to be in some form of recovery for months to come, in efforts to get them to their pre-storm status.
Because of the destruction at Tyndall, the only people allowed on base at this time, for safety and security reasons, are those who have been called back to duty through their command for relief efforts.
Those who have an address in base housing or dormitories are being allowed on base for limited times during the day, through Sunday, to survey the damage and collect some of their belongings.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.