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Airmen evacuate to Little Rock

Airmen from the 16th Special Operations Wing from Hurlburt Field, Fla., load onto a bus after landing at Little Rock AFB, Ark.,  Aug. 28. Several Airmen and C-21’s from the 81st Training Wing at Keesler AFB, Miss. and C-130’s from the 16th SOW at Hurlburt Field sought refuge at Little Rock as Hurricane Katrina inched its way toward the coast. (Photo by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan)

Airmen from the 16th Special Operations Wing from Hurlburt Field, Fla., load onto a bus after landing at Little Rock AFB, Ark., Aug. 28. Several Airmen and C-21’s from the 81st Training Wing at Keesler AFB, Miss. and C-130’s from the 16th SOW at Hurlburt Field sought refuge at Little Rock as Hurricane Katrina inched its way toward the coast. (Photo by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. (AETCNS) -- Airmen and C-21s from the 81st Training Wing at Keesler AFB, Miss. and C-130s from the 16th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla., sought refuge at Little Rock Air Force Base as Hurricane Katrina inched its way toward the Gulf Coast.

The aircraft from Keesler and Hurlburt Field started landing here late morning on Aug. 28 and the movement continued throughout the day, said Tech Sgt. Jim Dawson, 314th Logistics Readiness Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge of plans and deployments.

The 16th SOW moved operations here to ensure the wing could continue to support the war on terror and keep their planes on alert.

"The decision to evacuate was made Sunday morning," said Col. Mark Alsid, 16th Operations Group commander. "With the storm being as big as it was, we couldn't take any chances."

The units received a lot of support from Little Rock Airmen setting up everything from billeting arrangements to maintenance support.

"It was a base-wide effort," Sergeant Dawson said. "We have helped set up just about anything you can think of."

The support was well received by the 16th SOW.

"Without the tremendous support of Little Rock Air Force Base and the local community we wouldn't be able to continue our mission," Colonel Alsid said.

The last hurricane evacuation here was July 8 during Hurricane Dennis. This is the second hurricane evacuation of the season for the 16th SOW which sent C-130's and MH-53M Pave Low helicopters here in July.

Little Rock AFB was more familiar with what the 16th SOW needed for support because of lessons learned from the last evacuation, according to Sergeant Dawson.

Hurlburt Field moved its assets back to the Florida Panhandle Aug. 30 after they were given the all-clear order.

(Airman 1st Class James Dickens, 16th Special Operations Wing public affairs contributed to this story)
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