The Okies of the 507th Air Refueling Wing celebrated 50 years at Tinker in May. Across the past five decades, the mission and aircraft have changed, but one aspect remains the same: Okie spirit.
The wing held Family Day April 30, which is historically held in September, to commemorate the 50th anniversary May 20.
The Okies operate like a family, so naturally this year’s family day festivities were a success. The festivities included static aircraft displays, food vendors, and historical displays highlighting the wing’s accomplishments over the past half century.
The 1100 Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 507th ARW each play a critical role in supporting the mission. The mission support group has the most personnel and are the heartbeat of the wing, performing logistics functions, civil engineering, force support, aerial port, and defense to not only the wing but also to associate units.
The operations group operates 8 KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft, ensuring fuel is delivered to the fight.
The maintenance group ensures the aircraft fleet is meticulously maintained ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.
The medical squadron monitors the medical, dental and mental health of all members in the 507th as well as the personnel in the associate unit, the 513th Air Control Group, making sure members are ready to serve at any time.
None of these groups could work independently of the others because the Okies are a team. Here are some of the highlights of this landmark year:
In March, current and former Okies searched for a 50th anniversary time capsule in the Charles B. Hall airpark, located at the entrance to the base. The capsule was rumored to be hidden somewhere in a compartment of former 507th TFG F-105 Thunderchief, tail number 62360. Former crew chief, retired Master Sgt. David Phillips, assisted in the search, but unfortunately, the capsule was not recovered from the aircraft.
In April, the wing hosted former Okie George Wallace, an F-105 pilot, as he kicked off the Annual awards banquet with a moving speech as the guest speaker. Other guests of note were the grandchildren of Billy Hughes, Kelli and Mitchell Hughes. Hughes was a supervisory aircraft maintenance technician who passed away in active service at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, July 12, 1992, after a decade of honorable service to the wing. Every year, an award for excellence is given in his honor and the Hughes family presented the 2021 Billy Hughes award to Senior Master Sgt. Wiley Warner.
In April, two jets received custom nose art, which is a decorative painting or design on the fuselage of an aircraft designed to boost morale and help differentiate between crews or planes. Aircraft numbers 580058 and 580051 both received decals on the aircraft in honor of the wing’s anniversary.
The artwork on 0058 depicts the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial in downtown Oklahoma City with the U.S. flag filling the entire sky, waving proudly in the background. Aircraft 0051 proudly displays the Okies heritage patch, a yellow arrowhead with a red outline depicting each aircraft the wing has flown over the years and ‘SH’ for Sooner Home.
Aircraft 0058’s dedicated crew chief, Tech. Sgt. Travis Krause, designed the artwork, titled “Perserverance,” and explained the significance of the piece.
“The nose art is the soul of the aircraft embodied into a piece of art that instills pride into those who work on it, fly on it and everyone who sees it,” Krause said.
In July, the 507th deployed more than 120 Airmen to Hawaii to take responsibility as the lead tanker unit in the Rim of the Pacific exercise. At RIMPAC 2022, the wing provided air refueling support to more than two dozen partner nations by flying 155 flight hours and offloading 1.8 million pounds of fuel to 276 receivers to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.
In September, the wing successfully completed a Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection across three days.
“Within a challenging no-fail exercise scenario, the 507th Okie Airmen clearly demonstrated their ability to execute our U.S. Air Force’s top priority mission,” said Col. Michael Parks, 507th Air Refueling Wing commander. “The nation expects all components of the nuclear enterprise to comply with unwavering security, safety and reliability standards.”
Also in September, longtime Okie Col. Ken Humphrey, departed the unit and passed the torch on to his son to continue the Okie legacy, which will now span three generations.
Humphrey, former 507th Operations Group commander, flew his final flight as an Okie here September 29, 2022. He was joined by his son 2nd Lt. Kennedy Humphrey, who will join the unit as a KC-135 pilot upon his completion of undergraduate pilot training.
Humphrey served in the 507th since Feb. 6, 1993 and is the second generation of his family to be a part of the unit.
In October, the public affairs office hosted the second of two spouse flights this year. Between the October flight and another flight in April, 28 spouses experienced refueling missions and saw what our Reservists accomplish carrying out the refueling mission. Eric Metzger, spouse of the 507th Force Support Squadron’s Tamila Metzger, expressed his gratitude for being able to participate in one of the spouse flights.
“It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Metzger. “The crew, from the pilots to the boom operators, were professional, knowledgeable, and attentive. The plane itself was spic-and-span from front to back and well-maintained. It was obvious the flight crew took great pride in their aircraft.”
In November, the Okies performed three KC-135 flyovers at college football games: Nov. 5, over University of Oklahoma, Nov. 12, over Texas Tech and on Nov. 19, over the University of South Carolina. Lt. Col. Douglas Jeffrey IV, 507th Operations Group commander, explained how flyovers give an opportunity to showcase our mission to the public.
“We volunteered for the Texas Tech Veteran’s Day flyover not only for the 50,000 fans but so the world knows we can deliver airpower on time and at a moment’s notice,” said Jeffrey.
On Dec. 16, aircraft 500058 was decommissioned and personnel gathered to bid their goodbyes, signing the aircraft and rendering a final salute to the aircraft as it taxied out to the runway on its final flight. The aircraft will sit in storage at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, more commonly called the Aircraft Boneyard.
The Okies are proud to call Tinker Air Force Base their home, which celebrated 80 years this year. The history of the wing and the diversity of mission sets proves that the 507th ARW Okies are poised and ready support a variety of mission for years to come.