Airmen sailing to Wake Island for damage check

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Airmen and Sailors from Andersen will sail 1,500 miles to Wake Island to see how well the U.S. territory survived Super Typhoon Ioke.

The Air Force evacuated all 188 island residents on two C-17 Globemaster III aircraft Aug. 28 before the typhoon arrived Aug. 31 with 155 mph winds and gusts to 190 mph. The residents include Airmen, Department of Defense employees and Defense contractors.

Members of Andersen's 36th Contingency Response Group and U.S. Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 will sail Sept. 4 on an expected four-day trip to the island.

They will leave from U.S. Naval Base Guam. At Wake they will make initial assessments of the typhoon's impact on island infrastructure and airfield operations. An 18-foot storm surge and 40-foot waves were expected to hit the tiny island; the runway lies 14 feet above sea level.

"We went ahead and prepared all the facilities as best we could," said Air Force Capt. Nate Harris, Wake Island commander, before Ioke hit. "Now all we can do is sit and wait and see what damage occurs."

Wake Island lies 2,300 miles west of Hawaii and 1,500 miles east of Guam. It serves as a scientific outpost and a midpoint air base for Air Force planes flying across the Pacific Ocean. (Information provided by 36th Wing Public Affairs and 15th Airlift Wing Public Affairs.)