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Mawar response a family matter for AFCEC duo

  • Published
  • By Christine Walker
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

As darkness set over the island of Guam on May 24, the sun was rising along the Gulf Coast of Panama City, Florida, where Mark and Norma Shackley were talking to Norma’s sister Lourdes on a video call.  

Lourdes was on her balcony in Guam. In the background, the wind howled across the darkened island as Typhoon Mawar was making landfall. 

“My wife and I were so worried for her family after we spoke with her sister and watched the destruction on the news,” said Mark, the innovation team lead and security forces manager for the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s Natural Disaster Recovery Division at Tyndall AFB. “You just feel completely helpless seeing photos of the trees knocked down and homes being damaged or completely destroyed.”  

While his mind was on Norma’s family, he knew the NDR team would soon be called upon to help Guam’s Andersen AFB recover if the typhoon hit as hard as predicted. 

“When there is a storm that hits the island, there is nowhere for them to run or hide, so they just have to deal with whatever happens,” Mark said. 

Mark was previously stationed at Andersen AFB, and Norma was born and raised on Guam with family still residing there. They have weathered their share of typhoons and knew Typhoon Mawar would cause significant damage. 

“I vividly remember living through powerful typhoons, like Pamela in the 1970s and Omar in the 1990s, but Typhoon Mawar is different because I am not there to help my family,” Norma said.  

Mark has been coordinating with the recovery team at Andersen AFB to conduct an Integrated Base Defense Security System site survey, which identifies the funds needed to repair and upgrade the Intrusion Detection System and enhance the protection of resources and facilities. 

The Shackleys used a cellphone app to stay in touch with Norma’s family members. Her twin sister Narissa’s home in the village of Dededo on the northern side of the island was destroyed forcing her to live in her car and seek safe shelter, Norma said.  

Three months after the storm, Narissa is slowly rebuilding her home. Lourdes remained safe in her apartment located near Andersen AFB, where military members distributed water and food to local residents. Norma’s other family members living in remote villages are still waiting for electricity to be fully restored. 

Gina Stiglbauer, a resource manager budget analyst for the NDR Division and also a Guam native, never lost contact with her family members on the island. She stayed connected daily with her parents, children and extended family members in Guam using a cellphone video app.  

“Power was sporadic, but I didn’t lose communication with my family,” she said. “I was able to check on them during and after the storm.” 

Her family, who lives close to Andersen AFB, had clean running water a week after the storm. However, Typhoon Mawar’s powerful winds ripped across her family’s land destroying numerous mango, avocado, fruit and palm trees. Most of the trees were planted by her father more than 40 years ago and some were completely uprooted, taking the driveway concrete with them.  

“I knew Guam would be okay because many structures are built to withstand this kind of storm,” she said. “Our main concern was to ensure that there were no deaths.” 

Stiglbauer grew up hearing stories about World War II and the Japanese occupation of Guam. Her grandmother was put in a concentration camp and passed away when her dad was only three months old.  

“Hearing these stories and stories about previous typhoons that passed over the island has made them strong,” she said. 

The Tyndall-based NDR was established in 2021 to enhance the Department of the Air Force’s ability to recover from natural disasters. Led by AFCEC’s Facilities Engineering Directorate, the NDR team provides strategic construction management to assist Air Force installations, like Andersen AFB, that need to quickly recover from disasters and make infrastructure more resilient. 

The equipment the NDR provides will help with individual communities around the base,  Mark said. 

“Guam is my home and it’s comforting to know that part of NDR’s mission is to track these natural disasters and recover affected bases,” Stiglbauer said.   

While NDR efforts at Andersen AFB are under way, Norma Shackley and Gina Stiglbauer have full confidence the people of their island will recover.  

“I know that as the people of the island come together to help each other, they are able to depend on the ocean for food and live off the land to survive this devastation,” Norma said.