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Center’s name change marks further 1 AF post-hurricane progress

Lt. Col. Don Wilson, 1st Air Force Homecoming Center team leader deployed from the 186th Air Refueling Wing, Key Field Air National Guard Base, Meridian, Miss., discusses the center’s operations with Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Commander, NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, during the general’s visit to 1st Air Force facilities Nov. 27. (Air Force photo by Mary McHale)

Lt. Col. Don Wilson, 1st Air Force Homecoming Center team leader deployed from the 186th Air Refueling Wing, Key Field Air National Guard Base, Meridian, Miss., discusses the center’s operations with Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Commander, NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, during the general’s visit to 1st Air Force facilities Nov. 27. (Air Force photo by Mary McHale)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The recent transition of the 1st Air Force Call Center to the 1st Air Force Homecoming Center with a focus on members returning to duty marked another step of progress toward normalization of operations within the organization.

Originally stood up Oct. 17-18 as the 1st AF Recovery Center staffed by temporary-duty personnel from U.S. Northern Command, its steady progressions saw NORTHCOM manning replaced with augmentees from the 186th Air Refueling Wing, Key Field Air National Guard Base, Meridian, Miss. Subsequent progress saw its nomenclature initially change from recovery center to call center, and now homecoming center, with a single phone line.

According to Col. Margaret Blais, Director, Manpower, Personnel and Services Directorate, the change also reflects a shift of accountability of assigned personnel status from the center to immediate supervisors.

“To the maximum extent possible, we want to keep progressing toward normal operations, and this is a step toward that goal,” she said. “Our primary concern remains the welfare of our members, but we also have to transition to reconstituting the mission. The Homecoming Center is now meant to be a supplemental form of assistance as our members make progress with post hurricane concerns. If immediate supervisors are not available, by all means, call the Homecoming Center.”

According to Lt. Col. Don Wilson, Homecoming Center team leader deployed from the 186th ARW, the enduring mission of the center has always been assistance to the enterprise population and their families, with the only change of what form it takes.

“Our charge has been and remains to assist our enterprise members however we can,” Wilson said. “That’s always been priority.”

Along with the group from the 186th ARW were volunteers assigned to 1st AF who were able to commit some time to recovery efforts for the organization. Volunteers either made welfare-check phone calls to unit members or supported community-help based teams who assisted more significantly affected members with tasks that included moving and tree/debris removal.
“We both made and received phone calls,” Wilson said, recounting one in particular.

“There was a young man and his family stranded on the road with a broken car who called us, and we were able to send someone out to take him to get a rental vehicle.”

Staff Sgt. Aaron Kirkpatrick, 601st Air Operations Center Strategic Operations Division, was also a recipient of assistance.

“My work center helped coordinate some volunteer team members to help me move some household items and remove flood-damaged goods to the road,” Kirkpatrick said. “It was such a great help, I wasn’t even sure who to call or when they would show up if I did find someone to call. The team was awesome.”

And the members of the Meridian team found it a fulfilling experience as well.

Master Sgt. Mary Beaty is a transportation management specialist with the 186th ARW said,
“I wasn’t sure what my duties would be here when I got the call but it’s exciting to help people in need,” she said. “It seems almost everyone here has had some kind of loss but I’m just happy we were able to help.”

For 2nd Lt. Richard Robards, who works in space operations with the 186th ARW, the return to Tyndall AFB, Fla., was something of a homecoming, as his father was previously stationed here.

Told to prepare for bare base operations, complete with accommodations in the established tent city, Robards was ultimately tasked with updating the 1 AF recovery center Facebook page daily.
“I really appreciate this opportunity because one of the reasons I joined the Air National Guard was for these kinds of experiences of helping people,” he said.

The primary focus on the page, he explained, was to share as much pertinent information about recovery activities and resources within both the organization and community. That recovery page will be phased out as the 1 st Air Force Facebook page becomes the main conduit of current post -Hurricane Michael recovery and return to duty information.