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CSAF visits Team Tinker, highlights critical COVID-19 response to warfighter

  • Published
  • By Jillian Coleman
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, visited Tinker Air Force Base on June 8, 2020, to experience in-depth and observe the operations within the Air Force Sustainment Center and the 552nd Air Control Wing that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The general met with AFSC Commander Lt. Gen. Gene Kirkland, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex Commander Brig. Gen. Chris Hill and other senior leaders to discuss the role their depot operations play in providing critical support to the warfighter.

As the largest depot in the United States Air Force, Goldfein toured Bldg. 9001 for a closer look at how the team has adapted to minimize the threat of COVID-19 to the workforce while continuing depot operations. This included summaries on supply chain and production as well as emphasizing the importance of Team Tinker adhering to CDC guidelines. The health and safety of the workforce remained paramount as leadership navigated unprecedented challenges to maintain operations and meet mission requirements.

“It is absolutely spectacular what this institution has done in dealing with COVID,” the general said. “What was impressive to me was to see how quickly this organization adapted using the Center for Disease Control protocols to change operations to be able to get back to some sense of normalcy when it comes to product. The Air Force runs on our depots and the magicians who keep these aging aircraft airborne at the rates that we keep them airborne. I saw incredible innovation and great leadership.”

The general visited the new KC-46 maintenance campus to cap-off his depot-focused morning. Newly opened in October 2019, the facilities housing the depot maintenance for the KC-46 Pegasus will bolster Tinker’s level of operational dependability across the Air Force.

Aside from visiting portions of the depot, Goldfein recognized the significance in the community partnerships that contribute to the progress and development of Tinker AFB. Referring to the surrounding communities, Goldfein said in his Tinker Talks episode ( that Oklahoma is “the gold standard” when it comes to opening its arms to the Air Force families. Tinker is successful in large part because of the support it receives from advocates in the local areas.

Goldfein also met with one of Tinker’s three operational wings, the 552nd Air Control Wing. After hearing firsthand how the maintenance actions have been adapted, the general sat down with the 966th Airborne Air Control Squadron, the only flying training unit in the Air Force that sustained training operations since the outbreak of COVID-19. Flying more aviators than any other unit in its command, the distinctive mission of the 966th AACS did not allow for any breaks or pauses in training in order to maintain full combat effectiveness.

“It’s absolutely a challenge, but it’s one of those necessities that drives innovation. So, the challenges that have faced us have caused a lot of creative solutions,” Lt. Col. Gerrit Dalman, 966th AACS director of operations said. “A lot of those may actually make for a squadron that is performing better when we go back to normal. Our new normal is outperforming the way we were behaving before because of the lessons we have learned.”

Additionally, the general expressed one of his most pressing priorities: increasing the focus on diversity and inclusion within the Air Force. Regardless if the discussion on disparity is uncomfortable, Goldfein acknowledged the unconscious bias that presents itself across the Air Force.

“We have an opportunity to really get better,” he said. “Chief Wright and I decided very quickly on the steps toward progress. First, we have to own and acknowledge the problem. Second, we have to listen. Actively listen. Squint with our ears and listen to Airmen. And lastly, take meaningful action. We didn’t get here overnight. It will take great action and relentless effort to make this institution better.”

Goldfein showed special recognition to 10 individuals by coining five Airmen of the 552nd ACW as well as Airmen from the 72nd Air Base Wing and Air Force Sustainment Center.

“I am impressed by the expertise and commitment of our exceptional Airmen every day, and my visit today solidifies that their efforts and response during this crisis have been integral in ensuring long-term mission success,” Goldfein said. “Everything that is done here is done for the protection of our Airmen, our Airmen’s families and the safety of everyone who is involved in supporting and carrying out the mission.”