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Chief McKinley returns ‘home’ to Tinker

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley answers questions during an enlisted call with Airmen at Tinker’s base theater. (Photo by Margo Wright)

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley answers questions during an enlisted call with Airmen Dec. 13 at the base theater at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Margo Wright)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley returned to his old stomping grounds here Dec. 13 and, in the process, took a stroll down memory lane.

The chief, a former first sergeant at Tinker from the mid '90s to July 2000, was on leave to visit family members in the area and to attend the retirement ceremony for Command Chief Master Sgt. Tim Ossinger.

"I'm proud to be an Airman and I'm proud to be home and this is home," Chief McKinley told a standing room only crowd at the base theater. "Tinker holds fond memories for me. It was here that I made senior and chief (master sergeant)."

Chief McKinley said he met Chief Ossinger during their days as first sergeants and was happy when he became the command chief master sergeant here.

"There was no way I was going to be in town and not attend his retirement ceremony," Chief McKinley said.

During his visit, the chief dropped in on the 3rd Herd and the 552nd Air Control Wing, where he served as a first sergeant for the 3rd Combat Communications Support Squadron, 965th Airborne Air Control Squadron, 552nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron and 552nd Aircraft Generation Squadron.

"The Eyes of the Eagle (Airborne Warning and Control System) mission is absolutely critical to our national defense," the chief said. "So are the 3rd Herd and the (Oklahoma City) Air Logistics Center. Tinker is comprised of many organizations critical to the success of the Air Force."

Chief McKinley also took time to have breakfast with some Tinker Airmen, attend a luncheon with chief master sergeants and first sergeants and hold an enlisted call with Airmen at the base theater. During the enlisted call, Chief McKinley talked about three priorities for the Air Force: 1) winning the Global War on Terrorism; 2) developing and caring for Airmen and their families; and 3) recapitalization and modernization.

To win the war on terror, the chief said "we must make sure we're equipped for the long haul." He said this nation must continue to take the fight to the enemy, adding "we want to make this an away game and not a home game."

Chief McKinley said developing Airmen begins in basic training with establishing a warrior ethos. He said caring for Airmen and their families will remain an Air Force priority.

"Our quality of life will continue to be a great recruiting and retention tool for our Air Force," the chief said.

On the issue of recapitalization and modernization, Chief McKinley said, "Nobody drives a 25-year-old car, but we're out there fighting and trying to win a war with aircraft that average 25 years old.

"Some of our airframes are over 50 years old," he said. "We must take steps today to modernize our Air Force to ensure we are ready to meet tomorrow's threats."

The chief also talked about improving communication and getting back to basics with weekly Roll Calls to "let Airmen know what's going on in our force and how it will affect them."

"We want all Airmen to be getting the same information across our Air Force," he said. "Having a meeting in work sections at least once a week to discuss the current Roll Call message is a great start. We need to get out from behind our desks, have face-to-face interaction and quit practicing leadership by e-mail."

The two things he said that keep him up at night are suicides and sexual assaults.

"It's very disappointing to me to know we still have sexual assaults happening in our military," the chief said. "Airmen should never have to be afraid of other Airmen."

To help reduce the number of suicides, Chief McKinley stressed getting to know your fellow Airmen and being a good Wingman. At the end of the day, he said, it's about always looking out for one another.

The chief also talked about the Airman Battle Uniform, the new service dress uniform, enlisted and officer evaluation reports and the Air Force decorations process, among others.

The bottom line, Chief McKinley said, is to make Air Force systems run more effectively and efficiently so that Airmen can focus on their mission of meeting the Air
Force's No. 1 priority - winning the Global War on Terrorism.

"Last week, I was in South America," he said. "This week, I'm at Tinker. But, no matter where I go, the Airmen always impress me. They're absolutely the best there is and we want to continue to give them the tools they need to do their jobs."

Chief McKinley was appointed to his current position on June 30. He is the 15th chief master sergeant appointed to the highest noncommissioned officer position.