TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Despite two rounds of heavy snow and arctic temperatures this week, the 552nd Air Control Wing remains mission ready, thanks to dedicated Airmen and the help of associated base partners.
As temperatures were in the minus-degrees for a week with more snow than Oklahoma has seen in more than 100 years, the 552nd ACW maintained critical mission readiness. The command leadership at Tinker Air Force Base remained open for business as usual, despite base closure, as we still support units at Hill and Mountain Home Air Force Bases, in Utah and Idaho.
The 552nd ACW is ready to carry out a mission if called today.
“We are the only Airborne Warning and Control System and Combat Readiness Center wing in the United States Air Force, so there is no other option but to be ready,” said Col. Keven Coyle, 552nd ACW vice commander. “Even if the airfield is shut down, alert requirements don’t stop. For us to stay mission ready, we have to stay connected with our Air Force Materiel Command host, the 72nd Air Base Wing. Oklahoma isn’t equipped for this type of weather, so that makes things challenging, but I have been so impressed with how the 72nd ABW tackled this difficult weather situation.
“We have very high standards and must be able to operate in any conditions,” Coyle added. “We have to be creative and work through the challenges to get back to business. Readiness is just part of our calling to service.”
Safety is key to maintaining readiness.
Coyle said that wing leadership understands when road conditions make traveling or working conditions challenging. Even getting 30-50% of the workforce in can help to maintain our alert requirements. In spite of the weather, the 552nd ACW has been able to meet that alert posture every day.
“We work closely with our Eagle Team and the 72nd ABW to make sure we have hangars cleared so our maintainers can safely work out of the elements,” said Coyle. “We could not do that without the help of the civil engineers, their expertise, and the experienced supervisors running these teams — the CE teams were the real heroes during this weather event!”
Coyle added that because personnel had been able to telework during the pandemic, it made things much easier when the storm hit and closed the base.
“I have found communication is very good,” said Coyle. “The squadrons are tied in with their personnel and connecting with people who are struggling and who need help. It takes a lot of tight leadership to account for everyone and luckily we have leaders who are willing to be intrusive, when necessary, to get Airmen the help they need.”
The 552nd ACW leadership jumped into action to help out not only their Airmen, but all Airmen in the dorms who lost heat. The wing offered up the use of equipment they use to de-ice aircraft to defrost frozen pipes at the dorms and get the heat back on for the residents.
“We’re all just juggling hundreds of priorities and just have to be helpful where we can be helpful, this is not about ‘mine versus yours’ it’s about the team,” said Coyle.
552nd ACW squadrons at Hill AFB in Utah and Mountain Home AFB in Idaho are all too used to the snow and ice and their expertise came in handy when dealing with our local event. Our squadron at Dyess AFB, Texas also had heavy snow and icy conditions, but due to the pandemic, were able to complete their instruction and didn’t stop a single training course despite Dyess being closed for 3-days. The ingenuity and tenacity of our Airmen to get the mission done and do it well is always amazing!
The 552nd ACW stands ready, despite the weather, to serve our nation and her Allies at home and abroad when called upon.