Tinker celebrates tanker’s history

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Members of Team Tinker were joined by mission support partners Oct. 7 to honor an Air Force icon.


The KC-135 Stratotanker’s 60 years of service were recognized during a ceremony at Dock 5 ½ in Bldg. 3001. The KC-135’s actual anniversary coincides with the first flight on Aug. 31, 1956, so the fall celebration at the home of all organic depot workload was perfectly suited.


Guest speakers from the Air Force Sustainment Center, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Rockwell Collins and Boeing credited the longevity of the KC-135 fleet in large part to the skilled workforce at Tinker Air Force Base, which was instrumental in putting a record 75 KC-135 aircraft through programmed depot maintenance in fiscal 2016.


“As we celebrate the birthday of a national treasure today, we do so realizing that the 60 years of success of the KC-135 is due to generations that preceded us, this generation and the generations to come that have invested their lives in the tanker fleet — contractor, civilian and military personnel,” said Col. Mark Mocio, Legacy Tanker Division commander and program manager for the KC-135. “Because of your efforts, the KC-135 has served as the backbone of military aerial refueling for 60 years and will continue for decades to come.”


The Legacy Tanker program office at Tinker is responsible for life cycle management of the KC-135 fleet, while the maintenance, repair and overhaul is performed by the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, including the 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group. 


They have separate organizational chains and separate responsibilities, but the two groups work together to provide combat power to the Airmen. Cooperation is the key to getting the job done, Colonel Mocio said.


Col. Kenyon Bell, 76th AMXG commander, agrees.


“Our strength really lies in our people,” he said. “We can’t do anything without our talented and dedicated workforce. Our collective team is laser focused daily on providing safe, quality aircraft back to the operational forces.”


Donald Thompson, deputy program executive officer for Tankers with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, said those flying the first KC-135 in 1956 probably never imagined that the same aircraft would be flying 60 years later, much less continue until the 2040’s.


“None of that would be possible without you, the men and women of the Air Force and those working for our mission partners,” he said. “For 60 years you have been the unsung heroes on the KC-135.”


Addressing the maintainers in attendance, Mr. Thompson urged them to never forget the importance of their role.


“Each of the KC-135 crew members and passengers put their lives in your hands every day,” he said. “You see, each of you is just as critical to the KC-135 mission execution chain as the pilot and boom operator. Without you, they will never offload another gallon of gas, they will never save another life and they will never transport another short ton. Thank you for taking this responsibility so seriously and thank you, Tanker family, for all you do.”


Air Force Sustainment Center Commander Lt. Gen. Lee K. Levy II said there are many more chapters to be written in the history of the KC-135 and he’s looking forward to seeing what the next chapter will be.


“I don’t know what it will say, but I can tell you it will be impressive,” the general said. “I know it will help the United States Air Force, the world’s most respected and powerful aerospace and cyber force, remain on top in its preeminent role. And whatever it is that the KC-135 is called on to do next, it will be because of everyone in this room and everybody that you represent. It’s an amazing legacy.”