AFNORTH conducts Hurricane Michael operations at Key Field

KEY FIELD, Miss. (WTOK) - Search and rescue efforts from the aftermath of Hurricane Michael continue in Florida and other Southeastern states.

For the past week, Air Forces Northern Command from Tyndall, Florida have conducted storm operations at Key Field after they were forced to relocate from their Florida base.

Brigadier General Kenneth Ekman says he is stunned by the damage left behind.

"The damage is breathtaking, and still under assessment," said General Ekman.

General Ekman says Meridian served as an ideal place to relocate because of prior ties to the 186th facility.

"As we do exercises at Tyndall and at other locations around the United States, we have a chance to work alongside Mississippi Air National Guard airmen in the 186th," said General Ekman.

Previous training in this same building made the adjustment an easy choice.

"And so in this case rather than exercising we did it for real. And I'll tell you it was a real comfort to come to the 186th, to be among friends as we provided aide to our neighbors in Florida and other parts of the country," said General Ekman.

The room filled with over 70 service members from AFNORTH and the 186th.

"We divided up the different tasks and different what we call 'A' staffs. Everything from personnel to intelligence, logistics, operations, everything that the military needs to operate a mission as large as this," said Commander Robert Parker of the 186th Operations Group.

“Mostly what we did this time was we helped work through our civil air patrol, which is the civil air force auxiliary, to provide domestic imagery to the affected area,” said General Ekman.

General Ekman says the most impressive part of the operation is the mental strength of his team.

"They left their families in an evacuated status. They left their homes behind. And most of their homes were in major disrepair, and they came in here and performed flawlessly since day 1 of this event," said General Ekman.

President Donald Trump says he’ll visit Florida and Georgia early next week to assess damage from Hurricane Michael.