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News > Commentary - Team USAFA stands together during crisis
Team USAFA stands together during crisis

Posted 6/29/2012   Updated 6/29/2012 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Col. Tim Gibson
10th Air Base Wing commander

6/29/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Team USAFA,

The past few days have been an experience like no other that will no doubt
leave a lasting impression on our lives.

We have witnessed our neighbors to the south suffer devastating losses as a
result of the Waldo Canyon fire, tens of thousands of people have been
displaced from their homes, and there has been loss of life.

But we have also witnessed a community come together to help one another.
People have opened their homes to complete strangers, donated money, food
and other necessities to assist those who have lost everything in this fire.
And firefighters from across the nation have converged on our community,
risking their lives to minimize the risk this fire could have had on others.

Our very own dedicated and skilled firefighting team has been working around
the clock to defend our Academy from this destructive fire, and their job is
not done. Although things have settled down and the threat is no longer
imminent to the Academy, there is still a fire raging across Pike National
Forest. We don't know how long it will take to fully contain this fire, but
rest assured our team continues to closely monitor the situation and our
firefighters continue to defend our grounds.

If you were evacuated, as you return to your home, I ask that you maintain a
pre-evacuation mindset and understand, if necessary, we may have to evacuate
again to ensure your safety and well being.

We may also experience a surge of wildlife trying to escape the fire to our
west. Secure your trash in bear-safe trash bins, do not leave pets outdoors
overnight or at dawn or dusk, do not store pet food outside and keep your
barbeque grill cleaned and stored inside, if possible. Call Security Forces
at 333-2000 to report any bear sightings.

Because the fire is ongoing, we may experience days where the smoke is very
heavy. Do not be alarmed as this is not indicative that the fire is
encroaching. However, the smoke could have an impact on air quality and
visibility. We will continue to monitor both to ensure your safety and

Many of you are probably wondering how you will get reimbursed for some of
the expenses you incurred during the evacuation. We will be sending out
voucher processing guidance and have scheduled mass voucher filing July 9-10
from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Community Center Theater.

And finally, whether you were uprooted from your home, witnessed the raging
fire blanket the neighborhoods to our south, or have been working longer
than normal hours to ensure our personnel and residents were safe, the
events over the last few days may have left you or your loved ones feeling a
bit overwhelmed.

While it is natural to feel this way immediately after a crisis, any ongoing
feelings of anxiety or mental distress need to be addressed. We have many
resources available to servicemembers, their families and our civilian
employees to help you sort through these feelings. Counseling services are
provided by Air Force chaplains, Mental Health and the Employee Assistance
Program, as well as numerous helping agencies off base. I implore you to
take advantage of these services if necessary.

I am extremely impressed by the way everyone at the Academy handled this
crisis situation. I am in awe of the teamwork and the dedication of the
people who supported the evacuation and firefighting efforts, and I am
thankful for the cooperation of everyone involved. I ask that you remain
vigilant as we move forward with the business of Developing Leaders of

You make me proud to be a part of the Air Force family!

With Sincere Respect,

Col Tim Gibson

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