By D.P. Heard, 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 12, 2019
Environmental restoration employees deploy a containment boom from a boat March 18, 2019, on Offutt Air Force Base. One-third of the installation was flooded and the boom was a precautionary measure for possible fuel leaks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Delanie Stafford)
The 2019 Defenders of Freedom Air & Space Show has been cancelled due to flooding that has damaged many buildings on the Southern half of Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Recovery operations are currently underway and clean up will soon begin. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake)
At 11 a.m. on Friday, March 15, 2019, the 55th Wing leadership team met to discuss what needed to be accomplished to protect assets and facilities from possible flood waters that were creeping towards the installation.
Using lessons learned from the 2011 flood, they knew that if the levy was breached significant flooding would occur to the southeastern side of the base.
From the moment flood water started rising, numerous trips into various buildings where made in an attempt to recover mission essential equipment, supplies and memorabilia. Volunteers didn’t stop until flood waters made the trips unsafe for personnel.
During these numerous trips they attempted to retrieve important heraldry items from the 55th Wing Historian’s office. However, the door was locked, so the fire department was called in to break it open.
Mike Hoskins, 55th Wing Plans and Programs, was instrumental in recovering numerous historical items by loading them into his vehicle as well into vehicles of other volunteers.
This group ended up getting truckloads of items from the historian’s office before Tech. Sgt. Matt Sabo, 55th Wing Office of the Inspector General, had his truck engine flooded by the flood waters.
"I felt fortunate that I knew enough about wing history to be able to appreciate and take the time to preserve it for future generations," said Hoskins.
In the end, the 55th Wing headquarters building was flooded with nearly six feet of water. Everything was covered with mud, even inside desk drawers and the ceilings.
About a week after the water began to recede from the building, a few 55th Wing staff members were allowed to go into the headquarters with a list of personal items that people left behind during evacuation. Among those items was 55th Wing Commander Col. Michael Manion’s coins.
Tech. Sgt. Kaitlyn Schulze, 55th Wing administrator, climbed over a refrigerator to get some important items others had left in the office, including Manion’s coins.
“Upon walking into the building, I could not believe the amount of destruction that the flood caused.” said Schulze. “All furniture was moved from its locations, some were tipped over on top of other objects, the fridges were on their sides, and desk drawers were swollen shut. It was very heartbreaking to see the building what once was great be turned into such a wreck.”
At this time all the items that were recovered are in the possession of their owners or in the Dougherty Conference Center, where displaced 55th Wing personnel are currently working.
“There were a lot of efforts from multiple units all over the base to save history and a lot of them were very successful,” said Hoskins.