By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Tinker Air Force Base recently hosted a retiree appreciation day. Base leaders provided updates on happenings at Tinker and changes to missions and workloads and benefits available to the more than 66,000 retirees.
Col. Abigail Ruscetta, 72nd Air Base Wing Commander, Tinker AFB, provided a brief overview of her background and role as base commander. She has been stationed at Tinker since July 2018 serving on the depot maintenance side. In July, she took command of the base.
As commander, Ruscetta provides support to several facets of the base such as security, medical, roads, buildings, civil engineering, and personnel issues. That includes the more than 30,000 people who work on base every day and more than 66,000 retirees.
“Tinker is a beast because of all of the mission partners that we’re paid to support,” she said.
That “beast” is only growing stronger.
“Tinker is one of the only Air Force bases in the U.S. that is growing,” Ruscetta said. “We have a growing workload, we have mission growth, and it’s incredibly exciting.”
Air Force officials announced plans to expand Tinker to the east. Oklahoma City will permanently close Douglas Blvd. near the base allowing for the fence line to be pushed back.
The expansion will allow for development of a new “bomber campus.” The facility will provide maintenance for the new B-21 Raider – the Air Force’s new high-tech stealth bomber.
“Tinker will be organic source of repair for that B-21 bomber,” Ruscetta said. “That means it will come here for maintenance, repair, and overhaul. We will not fly it from Tinker but we will overhaul it.”
Ruscetta said they will also use the facility for modernization of the B-52 bomber.
“The B-52 bomber is going through major upgrade to keep it viable, flying, credible and relevant, through 2050,” she said. “It will take it from a B-52H to a B-52J. That work will be done here too at the bomber campus.”
The KC-46A campus continues to grow on the west side of the base. Ruscetta said the new tanker aircraft will come to the base every two years for maintenance. They plan to build additional hangars as the fleet grows.
“As more KC-46s come off the line, they’ll come here every two years,” she said. “And that means lots of jobs and work.”
Tinker is also saying goodbye to the iconic E-3 AWACS that have been a staple at the base for years. Ruscetta said the Air Force has retired 13 of the 31 E-3 aircraft. They plan to replace the aircraft with the E-7 Wedgetail.
“They have not announced where it will go, but we hope it comes here,” Ruscetta said.
The Navy Strategic Command Wing 1 is also planning to upgrade its aircraft in the next decade. The nuclear command and control wing plans to upgrade from the older E-6 aircraft to a C-130J, Ruscetta said.
Ruscetta said they are also following Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall’s lead by focusing on China.
“Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall has three priorities,” she said. “They are in order, China, China and China.”
Ruscetta said they are not rushing to war but will make sure their airmen are prepared.
“Let’s be clear, we do not want to go to war, but we need to be ready,” she said.
Ruscetta said the four priorities of the air base wing are:
• Execute Team Tinker’s mission of support.
• Empower and strengthen airmen and their families.
• Revolutionize our processes.
• Posture to win.
Following her presentation, Ruscetta took questions from the crowd. Other officials from the base later gave presentations to the group.
Jenny Goldschlager was also recognized as the volunteer of the year.