Tyndall Pauses Humanitarian Assistance Program for Airmen, Families

John W. Henderson, left, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, right, look at the aftermath left from Hurricane Michael from a CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron above northwest Florida, Oct. 14, 2018.  (Joseph Pick/U.S. Air Force)
John W. Henderson, left, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, right, look at the aftermath left from Hurricane Michael from a CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron above northwest Florida, Oct. 14, 2018. (Joseph Pick/U.S. Air Force)

Airmen and families assigned to Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, who applied for a special assistance program may not get an answer for a while as officials grapple with which airmen and missions will return to the base.

Tyndall officials have temporarily paused Humanitarian Reassignment and Deferment Program applications, according to Air Combat Command spokeswoman Leah Garton. The program is used to reassign or defer an airman as a one-time action to resolve a critical problem with a family member who is dependent on the airman, according to the service.

"Currently, no additional humanitarian requests are being accepted [or] processed for Tyndall personnel without the 325th Fighter Wing commander approval," Garton said. "The reason for the temporary pause is to give the commander the time to deliberately consider the personnel requirements for missions that have moved from Tyndall to other bases as a result of the hurricane and ensure there are enough personnel to carry out those missions at those new locations."

Last month, Air Combat Command said that roughly 3,500 airmen had returned to Tyndall, while 575 are currently assigned on temporary duty there.

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The Air Force said in November that it is working to have roughly 1,500 airmen back at the base before the new year. According to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, most operations and all but 500 or so personnel will return in coming months.

Garton said that hundreds of humanitarian assistance program cases remain open for those still making final arrangements.

"There are 858 Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) and humanitarian assignment cases opened. Of that, 437 cases reflect [permanent change of station] orders completed or issued, leaving 421 cases pending," she said.

"No additional cases will be opened until the personnel requirements for Tyndall and the missions moving from Tyndall to other bases have been identified," Garton said. "We expect this will only be a temporary pause, and we are working tirelessly to get airmen and their families answers as soon as possible."

The process will also identify those who will be scheduled to relocate, ACC said.

That includes those slated to PCS to one of the four locations where Tyndall's F-22 Raptor stealth fighter fleet will be relocated: Langley Air Force Base, Virginia; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

Officials said the current relocation process will remain in effect until the base's personnel requirements have been identified. Once complete, the standard service humanitarian assignment process will be re-implemented, Garton said.

ACC explained that humanitarian permanent change of station is usually associated with special circumstances that are eased by a member's PCS to a location of their choice. For example, an airman might PCS to be near a close family member who is gravely ill.

"In the case of Hurricane Michael, those affected by the storm were granted special consideration for humanitarian PCS," Garton said.

The storm walloped Florida in October, rendering more than 95 percent of the base's buildings non-operational.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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