Celebrating the everyday heroes of Tinker Air Force Base
As the largest single-site employer in the state, it's no secret that Tinker Air Force Base is a critical part of the Greater Oklahoma City region. Tinker Air Force Base started its history in Oklahoma City more than 80 years ago, when a group of Greater Oklahoma City Chamber members organized the Industries Foundation of Oklahoma and pooled nearly $300,000 to successfully purchase land for defense installations.
The names who contributed to this effort are probably familiar to many who know the history of Tinker or Oklahoma City – civic leaders like E.K. Gaylord, Wilbur E. Hightower, Tom Braniff, Frank Buttram and Stanley Draper – but they certainly aren’t the only individuals who sacrificed their time, money and political will to see Tinker succeed. Throughout Tinker’s history, both military members and civilians have contributed to the continuing growth of our community. Read on for a small sample of the individuals whose leadership and sacrifice have shaped our community.
Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker
The namesake of Tinker Air Force Base, Maj. Gen. Tinker was lost at sea after leaving Midway Island with a flight of LB-30 bombers to make a pre-daylight attack on the Japanese Fleet in the vicinity of Wake Island. Tinker was the first American Indian in U.S. Army history to attain the rank of major general and the first American general officer killed in WWII.
Oklahoma City business leader Fred Jones was serving on President Franklin Roosevelt’s War Production Board when military officers first proposed a large air depot in the middle of the country. Jones called Staney Draper, manager of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, and told him start working toward a formal bid.
R.A. Singletary, the chamber’s manager of government relations who was referred to as “Oklahoma’s third senator” on Capitol Hill, received confidential assurance in 1940 that the army wanted to locate an air base for bombers at the Oklahoma City municipal airport.
Col. William R. Turnbull
A native of Massachusetts, Col. Turnbull became the first commanding officer of the Midwest Air Depot in 1942. Alongside civilians from San Antonio’s Duncan Field, Turnbull and his team were responsible for the hiring and training of the depot’s 2,800 initial personnel.
Cap. Sylvester Morrison
As commander of the Seventeenth Mobile Air Depot Group, the first unit assigned to Oklahoma City for training, Cap. Morrison oversaw the 1,000 men living in 180 tents before permanent barracks were constructed.
The Tinker Toilers
Civilian workers have always played an important role at Tinker Air Force Base, and that was especially true during WWII. Approximately 13,500 civilians, called Tinker Toilers, worked on supply and maintenance needs during the war.
“Rosie the Riveter,” a WWII symbol as important as “G.I. Joe,” was embodied by thousands of women workers who filled Tinker Field and the Douglas Aircraft Corporation to manufacture aircraft from the ground up - supplying American soldiers with fresh warfighting equipment.
Maj. Gen. Fred S. “Fritz” Borum
As the first Oklahoman to command Tinker Air Force Base, Gen. Borum built relationships and community support that made the relationship between Tinker and Oklahoma City second to none. Gen. Borum also oversaw Tinker’s post-war transition to a permanent maintenance and supply depot.
Maj. Ernest J. Fawbush and Cap. Robert C. Miller
After a tornado caused $10.25 million in damage to Tinker on March 20, 1948, Maj. Fawbush and Cap. Miller were tasked with the then-impossible task of predicting tornadoes. Maj. Fawbush and Cap. Miller noted similarities in the moisture distribution and the flow of surface winds compared with wind patterns in the lower atmosphere and issued the world’s first tornado warning just five days later.
One of the most famous people to work at Tinker Air Force Base was New York Yankees and Cleveland Indian pitcher Allie Pierce Reynolds. A graduate of Capitol Hill High School, Reynolds spent his offseason working at Tinker as a tire inspector in 1943 after being named “Outstanding Rookie of the Year” and leading the American League in strikeouts.
Art de la Garza
Art de la Garza spent many years of his civil service career filling a key role at the Oklahoma City Air Materiel Area, where he developed a new method for making cost and work analysis of aircraft and equipment modifications resulting in an initial savings of $11 million in 1961.
Harold Ripple retired from Tinker AFB in 1976 after a 34-year career covering the early days of modern logistics. He oversaw the transition of the communications and electronics materiel management function from New York to Oklahoma and he also helped establish what would become the base’s in-house audio-visual network.
Maj. Charles B. Hall
Maj. Charles B. Hall was a highly decorated fighter pilot and hero for the 99th Pursuit Squadron. A member of the Tuskegee Airmen, he was the first African-American pilot to down an enemy aircraft in combat and the first to receive the Distingushed Flying Cross. Maj. Hall worked at Tinker Air Force Base from 1949 until 1967, when he was transferred to the FAA maintenance analysis function at WRWA.
Chief Master Sgt. Edward James Iszard
Chief Master Sgt. Edward James Iszard, a native of Del City, earned the Air Force’s highest non-commissioned officer rank and was awarded the Bronze Star, Air Force NCO Academy Ribbon and Vientam Service Medal. At Tinker AFB, Iszard served as equal opportunity and treatment NCO for the base.
Robert J. Connor
Robert J. Connor became the first permanent civilian director of an ALC on Aug. 2, 2005 when he was named director of the OC-ALC. Connor’s leadership ushered in a time of excellence for the OC-ALC, with awards and designations including the AS9100 Registration, the outstanding ground safety award and the Air Force outstanding unit awards and the Charles B. Ryan Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Award for Business Innovation award.
Brig. Gen. Thomas C. Hruskocy
Brig. Gen. Thomas C. Hruskocy showed outstanding leadership and exceptional performance as the OC-ALC chief of Maintenance Resource Management and Material Management Resource divisions at Tinker from 1985-88. In 1988, he became director of Material Management, responsible for system support of B1/B52/C-KC-135/KC10/E4/E3 and aircraft of the Presidential fleet.
Col. John W. Hope
Col. John W. Hope served as the first commander of the Ground Electronics-Engineering Installation Agency, the forerunner to the present-day 38th Engineering Installation Wing and the Air Force’s first unified engineering and installation organization.
Hands Around Tinker
When Tinker AFB was put on the Base Closure and Realignment Commission’s list of possible closure sites in 1993, the community quickly reacted in support of the base. Oklahoma City businessman John Connor organized “Hands Around Tinker” event where members of the community joined hands to form a chain around parts of the base. About 5,000 community members showed support as base closure officials visited.
In 2011, Pam Kloiber saw a need on Tinker AFB. Young service men and women who were far from home needed a support system. In response to that need, she founded Team Tinker Home Away from Home, an organization that matches community sponsors with airmen and sailors, giving them a welcoming place to call home while stationed in our community. The program started with 10 airmen and in 2018 had more than 265 active service members and 81 host families participating.
Chief Master Sgt. (Ret.) Lorraine Caddy
Chief Master Sgt. (Ret.) Lorraine Caddy served 20 years in the United States Air Force before retiring in 1977. She then became the backbone of the Tinker Air Force Base Retirees Activities Office serving as director for many years. Caddy epitomizes the core value of service before self in her many volunteer roles, including Base Chapel volunteer, secretary for the Headquarters Oklahoma Women Veteran Organization and leader of the Annual Retiree Appreciation Day every year.