Tinker, community come together at annual Dining Out

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The Tinker Club was decked out in elegance as service members and the local community celebrated the 41st annual Tinker and Community Dining Out March 1.

The dining out, sponsored by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, served as a chance to enhance the relationship between Tinker and the local community and is patterned after a military dining out, which is traditionally military only.

Team Tinker and distinguished community guests were treated to an evening of Vegas-style lounge singing during the four-course gourmet dinner prepared by Chef Kurt Fleischfresser, owner and executive chef of the Coach House Restaurant.

"One of the most important chapters in Oklahoma City's story is Tinker Air Force Base," said Pete Delaney, chairman and CEO of Oklahoma Gas and Electric Energy Corp., and chairman of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber Board of Directors. "For 70 years, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and Tinker Air Force Base have partnered together to fortify our community and the base, all while supporting our men and women in uniform."
Mr. Delaney, who also served as the President of the Mess, or leader of the evening's event, explained that Tinker plays a critical role in the community by providing nearly 30,000 jobs.

"But the value of Tinker goes far beyond the jobs they provide," he said. "Tinker and the men and women who work on the base are key to Oklahoma City's thriving community, and we must do all that we can to support them," he said.

Throughout the evening, the tradition of the grog, a beverage bowl containing a nonalcoholic punch, was available for those found in violation of the rules of the mess.

When the master of ceremonies and mischievous Mr. Vice, Lt. Col. Rick Johns, and the president of the mess concurred, several individuals were sent to partake in grog, including a group of young Airmen who experienced the time-honored tradition for the first time. General officers, including Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield and Lt. Gen. Lori Robinson, helped the young Airmen learn what to do when sent to the grog.

General Litchfield, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center, thanked local community partners for their support.

"Team Tinker has experienced a great deal this past year with natural disasters, budget cuts and furloughs. But through it all, we've excelled in meeting our mission and are truly pulling through these experiences as a team," he said.

General Robinson, vice commander of Headquarters Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., was the featured speaker and emphasized the Team Tinker spirit that permeates the base and community. General Robinson was stationed at Tinker on three different occasions, including a tour as commander of the 552nd Air Control Wing. Thrilled with the opportunity to come back and visit with the folks at the 552nd ACW, she thanked General Litchfield for the chance to come "home."

"This team continues to climb," she said. "Look at what everyone has done to help each other -- Airman to civilian, family to family. The team was tested when the tornado came through [May 20, 2013]," General Robinson said.

She highlighted stories that spoke of ordinary citizens coming together as heroes to help their community while active duty and National Guard members helped locate survivors.
General Robinson shared how General Litchfield showed her a photo taken in the aftermath of last year's tornadoes of an American flag with a group of military leaders surrounded by community members who just wanted their picture taken with leaders of Tinker -- a way of saying thank you for caring.

"If that isn't what being a part of a base is, then I don't know what is," she said. "I had to take a moment and put that in my heart. The red, white and blue flag was our nation."
"What you have in this installation is heart and soul of the United States. You are the heartland of America, and your red, white and blue blood is on display to the nation."

General Robinson also spoke of the partnership with the community that brought the former General Motors plant, now called Bldg. 9001, to Tinker, and highlighted the Home Away from Home program, which helps provide Airmen a venue to form friendships and gather support beyond the formal work environment by linking them with select community leaders. They provide Airmen a home away from home during their first military assignment.

"Our Air Force is huge, the community is huge and this partnership is absolutely amazing," she said.

The general closed by expressing her pride in watching the heartland come together to help one another.

"You are the envy of the U.S. Air Force when it comes to taking care of each other because at the end of the day, it's all about the family, and we are a family."