By CourtesySeptember 29, 2017
By BARRY CONNORS
Aviation Center Logistics Command Operations
Due to the Gulf of Mexico proximity, hurricanes are a threat to the Army Aviation Center of Excellence's aviation training mission supported by AMCOM's Aviation Center Logistics Command and Army Fleet Support at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
This year proved to be no exception. On Sept. 1, Tropical Storm Irma developed into a Category 2 hurricane and continued to intensify to a category 5 hurricane on the morning of Sept. 5. Hurricane Irma was to become the most intense Atlantic hurricane to strike the U.S. since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. By the afternoon of Sept. 6, Hurricane Irma was forecast to continue westward, arriving in the Gulf of Mexico and then turning north toward Fort Rucker.
On the evening of Sept. 6, the order was given to reposition all flyable AH-64 Apache, CH-47 Chinook, LUH-72 Lakota and UH-60M Black Hawk aircraft to safe havens. The remaining aircraft were to be stacked in hangars at Fort Rucker. Fortunately, Aircraft Hurricane Evacuation planning for the 2017 hurricane season began in January and culminated with a Fort Rucker Command Brief followed by a post-wide Table Top Exercise and Communication Exercise.
On the morning of Sept. 7, crews from the 110th Aviation Brigade began ferrying 181 Fort Rucker aircraft away to safe havens located at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; or Camp Shelby or Meridian, Mississippi. Additionally, ACLC coordinated with Army Fleet Support (AFS) to provide maintenance support teams at each of the flyaway locations while the remainder of AFS concentrated on the stacking of the 507 aircraft that remained at Fort Rucker.
Overall, the planning, coordination, synchronization and safe execution of these efforts was attributed to rehearsals, teamwork, leadership, professionalism and initiatives. Ultimately, the Aviation Center Logistics Command's and Army Fleet Support's actions protected 644 Army Aviation training aircraft and hundreds of pieces of support equipment as well as strategic assets totaling nearly $6 billion.
On Sept. 12, the weather threat had passed. The order was given to reposition all aircraft back to Fort Rucker and to unstack the remaining aircraft to resume flight training. By the morning of Sept. 14, flight training was back to 100 percent.
The week-long Aircraft Hurricane Evacuation operation was the biggest stacking and flyaway we have done and provided valuable experience for both the planners and those executing the plan. Unit and Installation After Action Reports were conducted shortly after the operation with "Lessons Learned" being applied to future Aircraft Hurricane Evacuation plans.