TYNDALL AFB — Barely 24 hours after Hurricane Michael made landfall and virtually destroyed Tyndall Air Force Base, a Special Tactics team from the Hurlburt Field-based 23rd Special Tactics Squadron had opened a runway and begun bringing air traffic into the base.

Tyndall AFB is the headquarters of the 325th Fighter Wing and hosts a number of other major Air Force units. Its personnel were evacuated as the hurricane approached the Florida panhandle.

Meanwhile, Florida's two U.S. senators, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson, are urging top Air Force officials to provide them with quick and detailed information on the funding and other support needed to rebuild the base. An initial damage assessment released Thursday evening by Tyndall leadership included words such as "catastrophic," "destroyed," "devastated" and "extensive" to describe the havoc wreaked there by the hurricane.

According to a news release from the 24th Special Operations Wing, the Special Tactics airmen from Hurlburt, specially trained in opening airfields after natural disasters in addition to training in ground combat skills, were on the ground at Tyndall AFB on Thursday. By 7 p.m., the team had cleared and established a runway. The first aircraft to come into Tyndall AFB in the wake of Hurricane Michael landed at 7:06 p.m., according to the news release.

As the Hurlburt airmen worked to help secure the immediate future of Tyndall Air Force Base, the state's two U.S. senators and Rep. Neal Dunn, a Republican physician whose congressional district includes Tyndall AFB, were working to assure its long-term future.

In a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the three elected officials urged the two Air Force leaders to provide them with "consistent, immediate, and detailed communication of the funding and support needed to repair infrastructure, restore operations and provide for local service members, civilians and their families" at Tyndall.

"The base serves a critical role in protecting and promoting U.S. national security interests and it is vital that we rapidly repair infrastructure and restore operations in the wake of the storm," the letter to Wilson and Goldfein stated. Among other missions, Tyndall trains pilots and maintenance personnel for the F-22 Raptor air-to-air fighter jet, the letter notes.

Units at Tyndall, including the 601st Air Operations Wing, which conducts relief operations following disasters, are "critical to our national security, and we need them back there as soon as possible," insists the letter from Rubio, Nelson and Dunn.

Also in the letter, the three members of Congress say they "stand ready to work with the Air Force to rebuild Tyndall AFB and advocate for the resources needed to do so. ... We are committed to its full recovery and we look forward to working with you to achieve that goal."