Maxwell shelters Navy Seahawks from Tropical Storm Fay

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Dozens of U.S. Navy helicopters evacuated from the Florida coast to Maxwell Air Force Base on Wednesday in an effort to avoid the destruction of Tropical Storm Fay. 

Navy Cmdr. Chris Fallia said the decision to evacuate to Maxwell AFB happened early Wednesday, when the tropical storm was projected to veer back inland after hugging the East Coast, placing Naval Station Mayport - located near Jacksonville, Fla. - directly in the path of the storm. 

The Navy has a standing agreement with Maxwell AFB as an evacuation center. 

The commander said military installations near or on the coast use Maxwell to divert from hurricanes because of its capacity and its location. 

"Its one of the best places to come to because of the amount of billeting, and the ramp has plenty of room," he said. "Rarely will a hurricane reach this far inland, so that makes Maxwell an ideal spot to divert resources and personnel." 

The naval wing's mission involves anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, search and rescue, logistics, and command and control responsibilities. The commander described his wing as a jack-of-all-trades. 

Alvin Lee, the lead coordinator for airfield operations at Maxwell, received word from the 42nd Air Base Wing of the incoming aircraft early in the process. 

"Everyone has done what they are scheduled to do," he said. "The helos came in a little early, but everything has gone really well." 

The 42nd ABW vice commander said Maxwell's role in providing safety during storms is a service the wing takes very seriously. 

"It is right in line with our wingman culture," Col. Tyrone Woodyard said. "These aircrews and their aircraft are receiving the same level of service and support that everyone who visits Maxwell gets. We are giving them what they need to monitor their mission and stay in communication with their commanders." 

As of press time, 157 crew members and 33 aircraft were sheltering at Maxwell until Tropical Storm Fay passes the Jacksonville area. According to the National Hurricane Center, up to 30 inches of rain were predicted to fall in some areas of the state.