SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
The Bay County Chamber of Commerce in Panama City, Florida, honored Col. Brian Laidlaw, 325th Fighter Wing commander, at their annual awards ceremony in January.
The Chamber presented Laidlaw with the Chairman’s Award for Tyndall AFB’s resiliency and contributions to Bay County’s recovery after Hurricane Michael. The Chairman’s Award has only been awarded on five other occasions for outstanding service to the community.
Public Affairs reached out to the commander to discuss what receiving this award meant to him.
Q: Were you surprised to receive a Chairman’s Award from the chamber?
A: “I was humbled, happy and proud to accept this award from the Bay County Chamber of Commerce. This award is not about me, it is about Team Tyndall, our friends and neighbors downtown, and everyone who had a part in making Tyndall better today than it was yesterday. This award means lot to me because it comes from the community [who] supported Tyndall in its darkest hours. It comes from a community [who] welcomes Tyndall Airmen and makes it home for all of us.”
Q: Why do you believe you received a Chairman’s Award?
A: “We received this award because of all of the hard work, ingenuity and resilience of the outstanding team of Airmen and civilians who support the Tyndall mission day in and day out. That kind of teamwork is vital to our success. Without our partners throughout the Air Force and Bay County, we would not have been able to react the way we did after the storm. I am proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them all, and I share this award with them.”
Q: What does receiving this award represent?
A: “The strong relationship between Tyndall Airmen and the citizens of Bay County made this award possible. Our relationship with the community dates back to World War II. The relationship is strong and built on the mutual respect we’ve had with Bay County for almost 80 years. It was a real privilege to honor that relationship by receiving the Chairman’s Award.”
Q: What does it mean to you to receive this award?
A: “This award means Team Tyndall’s efforts did not go unnoticed by the community. I accepted the Chairman’s Award, but Team Tyndall earned it. This award is a reminder of the valuable contributions we have made to this community, and the impact this community has made on our Air Force.”
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add about receiving this award?
A: “This award underscores the Air Force’s commitment to building positive relationships with the communities surrounding our bases. Our Airmen and their families are integral parts of the community. This was another opportunity to [highlight] the Air Force does all it can to be a good neighbor and a positive force in those communities where Airmen have the privilege to serve.”
Hurricane Michael hit Tyndall AFB Oct. 10, 2018, as a Category 5 storm. Assessments were done and recovery operations started immediately.
The rare magnitude of destruction damaged 484 buildings — half of which need to be demolished — and forced the Air Force to relocate 11,000 personnel and 46 aircraft. Almost every building on Tyndall sustained damage. Some were damaged beyond repair.
The Air Force allocated around $600 million toward immediate repairs.
As of October 2019, Tyndall was operating with about 80 percent of its prior personnel capacity, in 50 percent of the facilities, while accomplishing 90 percent of its mission.
While repair and construction will be continuous for the next 4 to 5 years, the Air Force is taking a holistic look at the installation and developing a master plan to build a 21st Century Air Base.