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'Weasel' Airmen return from evacuation

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Destinee Sweeney
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

More than 50 pilots and maintainers from the 20th Fighter Wing returned home from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, Sept. 12 and 13.

The maintenance Airmen preemptively left Shaw AFB Sept. 7 to maintain Shaw’s F-16CM Fighting Falcons that the pilots evacuated the day after in preparation for Hurricane Irma.

“The main purpose of the HUREVAC [hurricane evacuation] is to protect the assets we have,” said Capt. Jordan Sheffer, 79th Fighter Squadron pilot. “With all the F-16s on this base, it would be a very big blow to a national security asset if they got damaged or destroyed in any sort of natural disaster.”

Hurricane Irma formed in the Atlantic Ocean and swept over islands in the Caribbean and Florida and was predicted to pass over South Carolina.

“These jets are designed to use drag and lift to get up in the air,” said Staff Sgt. Jacob Marsh, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron tactical aircraft maintainer. “They can absolutely lift off the ground from [the winds of] a hurricane. I’ve seen it, and it’s not a good time.”

Although the storm wreaked havoc through other states, the eye of the hurricane moved west, and Shaw only experienced tropical storm conditions.

“The storm turned out to not be as bad as what, initially, we were expecting,” Sheffer said. 

By evacuating the aircraft, Shaw Weasels demonstrated the 20th Fighter Wing’s capability to mobilize its fleet short-notice and helped ensure the aircraft’s readiness for the next mission.