Wilson Promises to Rebuild Offutt

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson talks to members of the 55th Wing March 22, 2019, at Offutt AFB, Neb. A week earlier the base began taking on flood waters that eventually covered one-third of the installation. Air Force photo by TSgt. Rachelle Blake.

The Air Force will rebuild Offutt AFB, Neb., after the base suffered serious damage from extensive flooding, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Friday as she toured the inundated base.

At one point, most of the base’s flightline was underwater and dozens of buildings were damaged in the flooding, which began March 15. The base is continuing its recovery, with local power company officials on Monday discussing the possibility of returning electricity to limited facilities, 55th Wing Commander Col. Michael Manion said in an update on Facebook. Water is still receding, and pavement experts came to the base on Sunday to begin evaluating the runway, taxiways, and parking areas, he wrote.

“We have assistance flying in from all over the United States to assist in the assessment of the damage and to begin reconstruction,” Wilson said, according to a base release. “The United States Air Force will rebuild Offutt Air Force Base.”

While there is extensive damage, the base did not suffer any injuries or loss of life. Aircraft survived the storm by either flying out or moving to higher ground. Wilson said she is working with the Nebraska Congressional delegation to get supplemental funds to recover the damage and “make this base even better than it was.”

John Henderson, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment, and energy, said Friday the Air Force needs the supplemental funds for both Offutt and Tyndall AFB, Fla., to avoid having to move other operations and maintenance funds to cover the damage from the natural disasters that hit the bases.

Manion posted pictures of the wing’s command headquarters, showing standing water still in the hallways of the building. The building took on up to five feet of water. Henderson said Friday the base was planning to move the wing’s headquarters to the old US Strategic Command headquarters building after STRATCOM moves to its brand-new facility. The damage from the flood could accelerate this process, and eventually have the old wing headquarters demolished, he said.