Inside the Gates: 'Our world changed completely'
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson has now weathered two major earthquakes. Construction on the military base began in 1940; the airfield was completed in 1942. The base continues to stand strong, which officials say is because of its dedicated service men and women.
"I have people who work for me that didn't go to their own homes for two days," Lt. Col. Jacob Leck, Commander 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron, said. "They made calls to check and then stayed here and worked through the night. They stayed to make sure that the mission we have here at JBER is taken care of. That was a high priority to them and they understood that to the point that they only made those phone calls. They are absolutely incredible individuals."
Surveillance video inside the Elmendorf Fitness Center shows the pool area getting rocked by the 7.0 earthquake.
"When the earthquake hit, our world changed completely," Leck said. "After the earthquake, we lost power. We also had to work on our water systems and utilities like our gas. The amazing thing that we found with our arctic engineers and our arctic warriors on JBER is we were ready to receive aircraft within the hour. We landed three C-130's here within the hour."
The military base was also preparing to land planes from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, if needed.
"We were working on it," Col. Michael Staples said. "We didn't know how we'd do it, but we were looking into it and preparing if the airport was shut down. The mission on JBER continued."
JBER holds roughly 3,200 units for housing and 1,000 buildings. Base officials said no one was hurt, no fatalities were reported and only one family was dispersed because they didn't have running water. The Elmendorf side was hit harder than the Richardson side.
"Some buildings received some damage, but most of it is cosmetic," Darryl Parks, 773rd Chief of Operations, said. "A few we've had to close or section off. If you look at these grid members and some of it here on the deck, it's very lightweight material. It's not hard-weight structure material, so that's why it kind of gave way when we had all the shaking going on because all these walls were moving at the same time."
While the base was quickly back up and running after the earthquake, some of the service men and women needed a moment to catch their breath.
"It was definitely an emotional roller coaster," Tech Sgt. Erica Baez said. "Some of the dry ceiling tiles fell down around us, the fire suppression system went off, we all get pretty wet then went out in the cold. People started their cars for us so we could stay warm. We coped pretty well and it brought us closer together."
"The intensity of it was pretty strong," Airman 1st Class Kailey Delage said. "I had cinder blocks falling from behind me and landed a foot a way. It's a blessing no one got hurt."
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.