552nd ACW commander encourages maximum participation in 'Salute'

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, OKLA. -- Ever since assuming command of the 552nd Air Control Wing in June of 2013, Col. Jay R. Bickley vowed to make educating his Airmen about their Air Force heritage one of his top priorities.

The 552nd ACW commander has made good on his promise by periodically inviting retired service members to the base to talk to Airmen about 552nd ACW heritage.

That exposure will be taken to another level May 7-9, when "America's Wing" hosts a Diamond Anniversary Salute, celebrating 60 years of Airborne Early Warning and Control for the United States military.

"I believe you have to understand where you came from before you can set a path for the future," Colonel Bickley said. "Hearing the stories of those who came before us is a way to remind our Airmen of the United States Air Force's amazing history."

The Diamond Anniversary Salute kicks off on Thursday with a reception to welcome guests, with Gen. Lori Robinson, Pacific Air Forces commander, providing opening remarks.

Friday's events will feature a golf tournament, 5K color run, simulator and unit tours, an aircraft static display, a wing commander's hangar call, and a legends mixer hosted by wing veterans.

Saturday's activities begin with Del City dedicating the remainder of their E-3 replicas on Sooner Road, and culminating with a black-tie gala at the Oklahoma City Petroleum Club, featuring U.S. Strategic Command Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. James Kowalski as the keynote speaker.

Asked why Air Force heritage and, in particular, the heritage of AEW and the 552nd ACW are so important to the young Airmen serving today, Colonel Bickley replied, "Our unit history is very important and drives a level of pride in the development of our weapon systems and battle management in general."

Colonel Bickley said the idea for a Diamond Anniversary Salute came about after the wing historian brought to his attention that this year marks the 60th anniversary of AEW.

"It was decided that we couldn't pass such a significant milestone without a celebration," he said.

Colonel Bickley said he selected Maj. Sandra "Sammi" Bonney, Standardization and Evaluation division chief for the 552nd Operations Group, to lead the effort, adding, "She and her team have done a tremendous job."

The 552nd ACW commander said the Diamond Anniversary Salute should prove to be a special event when all is said and done, with some high-ranking military members expected to attend.

"The 552nd ACW has a tremendous history and reputation," he said. "It is no surprise that the diamond anniversary of such an amazing wing will bring out many of our Air Force's senior leaders."

Colonel Bickley said he hopes his Airmen walk away with a sense of pride and accomplishment having attended the event.

"I hope they realize by serving in America's Wing they have joined a long line of warriors who have answered the nation's call and they we will continue to provide world-class command and control to our warfighters well into the future," he said.

Colonel Bickley said he'd like to encourage all members of the 552nd ACW, both past and present, as well as Team Tinker's community partners, to come out and enjoy the celebration.

"It's going to be a phenomenal opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of America's Wing," he said.

For more information about the Diamond Anniversary Salute events, visit www.aewa.org, or call Major Bonney, at 734-5916.

Diamond Salute schedule of events

May 7:
3:52 p.m. Kickoff Reception, Tinker Club
Open to past and present 552nd ACW members and spouses, Team Tinker and community leaders by invitation. Welcome remarks by Gen. Lori Robinson, Pacific Air Forces commander.

May 8:
7:30 a.m. 5K Run Registration, Tinker Track
Open to all past and present 552nd ACW members, spouses and Team Tinker -- space available basis

7:30 a.m. Golf Tournament, Tinker Golf Course
Open to all past and present 552nd ACW members, spouses and Team Tinker -- space available basis

8 a.m. 5K Color Run, Tinker Track

8 a.m. Diamond Anniversary Breakfast, Tinker Club
Past and present 552nd ACW members; Team Tinker and community leaders by invitation. Host and speaker will be Col. Jay Bickley, 552nd ACW commander.

8 to 11 a.m. Hourly tours and E-3 Static
-- Bus transportation will be provided
-- Past and present 552nd ACW members, spouses and guests-space available basis
-- Block 40/45 Static, Mac Ramp
-- Maintenance and Support, Bldg. 230
-- Flight Simulator, L3, Air Depot & 59th Street
-- Legacy (30/35) Simulator, Bldg. 284
-- 40/45 Simulator, Bldg. 285
-- ACG Mission Training Center, Bldg. 284
-- 552nd ACW Mission Brief, Bldg. 282, Fannin Hall

11 a.m. Buffet lunch service begins, Docks 2 and 4
Past and present 552nd ACW members, spouses and guests --  space available basis

1 p.m. 552nd ACW Hangar Call, Docks 2 and 4
Past and present 552nd ACW members, spouses and guests - space available basis
Host's Opening Remarks -- Col. Bickley
Golf Tournament Awards -- Tournament Players
Skit -- OG/MXG/ACG/Reserves
Tale of the 552nd -- Select Air Force retirees and 552nd Airmen
Tale of the Al Yamamah Ball -- Select 552nd veterans
Host's Closing Remarks -- Col. Bickley

3:52 p.m. Legends Mixer, Tinker Club
Hosted by Airborne Early Warning Association
Past and present 552nd ACW members (legends, all-stars, rookies), spouses and guests
Hors d'oeuvres & beverages provided
Return of the Al Yamamah Ball

May 9:
1 p.m. E-3 Replica Dedication, Sooner Road (Vance Gate), Del City
Open to Team Tinker and community

6 p.m. 552nd ACW Diamond Anniversary Gala, Oklahoma City Petroleum Club
Past and present 552nd ACW members, spouses and guests; Team Tinker and community leaders by invitation

5:45 p.m. -- Registration

6 p.m. -- Social & DV Meet and Greet

7 p.m. -- Guests seated, sponsor recognition, entrance of head table, Presentation of Colors
In Memoriam POW/Fallen Airmen/Yukla 27 (20th Anniversary) and Welcome

7:15 p.m. -- Dinner

8 p.m. -- Intermission

8:30 p.m. -- Keynote Speaker: Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, United States Strategic Command deputy commander

8:55 p.m. -- Closing Remarks

9 p.m. -- After Dinner Dance, Party Shirt Contest, 1950s/60s music