By Jeff Harrison
Tinker Air Force Base welcomed a special guest last week.
Shon Manasco, acting undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force, visited the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex to see how the maintenance work has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Manasco met with AFSC Commander Lt. Gen. Gene Kirkland and OC-ALC Commander Brig. Gen. Chris Hill to discuss how the AFSC and OC-ALC continue to provide critical depot maintenance and supply chain management in support of Air Force objectives. Manasco also met with Gov. Kevin Stitt during the trip.
“We give our commanders in the field a lot of latitude to do things they need to accomplish mission,” Manasco said. “They always balance the risks with personal safety and accomplishing the mission…. I would give Tinker an A for what they are doing.”
Manasco said he was impressed by the way Tinker leaders and personnel have quickly adapted to the new challenges and maintained a balance of production and safety. They have accomplished it through such things as greater spacing for workers and additional precautions and cleaning policies, Manasco said.
“It gives me a lot of confidence that they can get in here and do the work and make a difference,” he said. “At the end of day, that’s what they (workers) want to do and they understand the critical nature of what they do and what it means for the nation.”
Manasco said it is still too early to quantify the impact that the coronavirus has had on the maintenance work at Tinker. He said the base initially sent much of its workforce home and gradually allowed them to return to work.
“I expect we’ll see a slight reduction in the overall production and throughput at Tinker and others. But that’s throughout and capacity we’ll make up over time,” Manasco said.
Tinker has seen several civilian and service members contract the virus. As of May 1, base officials reported 24 total positive cases of COVID-19, but only one in the past week. Manasco said that Tinker leaders have quickly responded to any positive coronavirus cases.
“They can quickly remove them from the workplace and go through all the cleaning protocols and safely return to work,” he said. “After the duration of treatment, a worker is tested again to allow them to fully come back to the workplace.”
When asked about easing restrictions related to COVID-19, Manasco said many of the decisions will be conducted at the installation level by base commanders. He said that an order by the Department of Defense has restricted all personnel movement until June 30.
The visit to Tinker was part of a larger trip to observe training and maintenance. Manasco last week observed basic training at a different base and traveled to Vance Air Force Base Wednesday afternoon to get an update on pilot training.
According to base officials, Manasco traveled to Bldg. 9001 for an up-close look at operational changes and adaptations meant to minimize COVID-19 impacts to depot operations. Tinker senior leaders provided Manasco with a summary of other impacts to production as well as a presentation on how AFSC and OC-ALC Airmen are practicing CDC-recommended guidelines meant to ensure the health and safety of the workforce.
He also visited the B-1 production line to see how the 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group has adapted its operations. Leaders from the 76th AMXG briefed Manasco on the innovative ways the workforce has kept the mission moving forward despite the ongoing crisis.