Air Force Sustainment Center Commander retires
For the past three years, he’s led the U.S. Air Force maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) effort, one of the largest and most important commands in the free world. Today, after 33 years of service, he becomes a civilian.
Lt Gen Lee K. Levy II today relinquished command of the Air Force Sustainment Center, headquartered at Tinker Air Force Base, to Maj Gen Donald Kirkland during a change of command ceremony presided over by Gen Ellen Pawlikowski and held in the largest single-use building in the state of Oklahoma, Tinker Air Force Base Bldg. 3001.
“I have chills walking into this place, and I am honored to be here,” said Pawlikoski. “This represents everything, the big airplanes and the littlest details, the dedication and pride. We are witnessing history here today”
“The last three years have been about the Airmen, that’s what’s really important and it’s important that we don’t lose sight of that,” Levy said.
As the commander of a 43,000 member workforce, Levy recognized the importance of a qualified workforce to fill the technical jobs that are necessary to keep today’s Air Force flying.
"Today, we shoot bullets and bombs at our bad guys," Levy said, at a recent Greater Oklahoma City Chamber event. "Tomorrow, we will shoot ones and zeros, and I need your help. I need more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) trained men and women. There's lots of opportunity for us to bring work to Tinker, more quality jobs in technology to the state of Oklahoma. We need to think about how we prepare and set the table for tomorrow as we transition from an iron-age Air Force to information-age Air Force."
During his time at Tinker, Levy has developed a fondness for Oklahoma and Oklahomans. That may be partly due to that fact that he married one. They plan to stay in the Oklahoma City area, now that he has retired from the Air Force.
“To call Oklahomans patriotic is really an understatement,” he said. “It's the kind of enthusiasm and support for the military and their families that you don't find everywhere.”
Levy’s replacement at the Sustainment Center, Maj Gen Donald E. "Gene" Kirkland, is a 33-year career aircraft and munitions maintenance officer. He was the first commander of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, serving in that capacity from 2012 – 2015. He returns to Tinker, having served as the Director of Logistics, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. for the past year.
“I am humbled and honored,” said Kirkland at this morning’s ceremony. “As a career logistician, I am proud and thankful for this opportunity. While it is a change of leadership, it is not a change of direction.”
Acknowledging the many civic leaders in attendance, including Governor Mary Fallin and U.S. Representative Steve Russell, Kirkland said, “The community leader support is second to none and recognized across our Air Force as a key element of the Center’s success. We know we can count on you to take care of our Airmen and their families.”
Kirkland also has served on the logistics staffs at U.S. Central Command and the Joint Staff and as Executive Officer to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Kirkland also served as the Director of Logistics, Civil Engineering and Force Protection, Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command.
Following the change of command ceremony, Kirkland received his third star and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general.