Military aircraft evacuate to Wright-Patt

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFMCNS) -- Just weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast region, Hurricane Ophelia threatened communities along the East Coast, forcing military bases to act fast.

As of Wednesday, 48 F-15E Strike Eagles, three KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft and 180 personnel had evacuated from Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., to Wright-Patterson. Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., sent four C-130 transport aircraft and 45 individuals.

Aircraft and personnel began arriving Monday.

"Wright-Patt provides a safe haven for other bases to protect their aircraft," said Col. Peter Oertel, 88th Operations Support Squadron commander. "This allows the Air Force mission to continue unrestricted and helps protect the investment in aircraft made by American taxpayers."

During inclement weather, United States military aircraft often relocate to avoid damage to valuable equipment.

"When you have $50 million airplanes a piece, you need to support the taxpayers' equipment and that's what we're doing," said Col. Mark Larson, 4th Operations Group commander at Seymour-Johnson.

The base airfield can accommodate up to several hundred aircraft. Base officials coordinate with other bases, stations and units throughout the DoD as part of a yearly plan to serve as host for aircraft and personnel when evacuations become necessary.

And when bases call, Wright-Patterson is ready, said Col. Andrew K. Weaver, installation commander.

"We've been ready for months," Col. Weaver said. "In support of our normal battle rhythm, we get ready a couple months ahead of hurricane season."