With only a few days warning, Navy Lt. Commander Aidan Carrigg was forced to leave his pregnant wife and two children back home in Florida.
Stationed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville as part of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing (CPRW)-11, Carrigg flew one of 8 P-8 Poseidons, westward to Texas to escape the clutches of Hurricane Matthew, which is now a Category 4 hurricane churning toward Florida’s east coast.
The P-8 Poseidon, a modified version of the Boeing 737-8000ERX, is used for reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare. Now parked at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, the planes and their crews must wait for the hurricane to leave the Southeastern U.S.
“I’m not so much worried about our home — more so about my pregnant wife and two small children,” Carrigg said
Besides the P-8’s, the base was also a temporary home to 12 F-16C Fighting Falcons from the 482nd Fighter Squadron based at the Homestead Air Reserve Base in Homestead, Fla and four F-18’s from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 that are part of the Marine Aircraft Group 31 at Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, S.C.
Chief Master Sgt. Stacy Walker, 482nd Fighter Wing aircraft maintenance superintendent, has experienced other hurricanes in Florida, including Hurricane Andrew, which pummeled Homestead in 1992.
“I think we’re better prepared now and there’s better construction now, so hopefully we’ll come through this one in better shape,” Walker said.
While Air Force maintenance crews were in Fort Worth, the pilots of those F-16’s were back home in Florida riding out the storm.
Navy Capt. Mike Steffen, the commanding officer of the joint reserve base, said Fort Worth is the ideal location in the middle of the country and has more room if it is needed
While some were worried about the damage back home, Navy AWO2 Jonathan Stokes, was looking forward to checking out the State Fair of Texas, downtown Dallas and the Fort Worth Stockyards while he was in town.
Stokes had just returned to from a deployment in Japan, then was ordered to head for Texas.
“Me personally, I had only been home in Jacksonville four days and I told we were evacuating,” Stokes said. “For me, I’m single. It’s an easy transition. I’ve been staying with family. I’ve come to enjoy sights and sounds of Fort Worth.”
He expects to fly home on Saturday or Sunday, depending on the path of the storm. When he arrives, Stokes said there will be plenty of cleanup — both at the base and at his relatives’ property in Georgia.
“They’ll be some trees blowed over,’ Stokes said.