By Darren D. Heusel, Tinker Public Affairs
/ Published April 10, 2015
TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The diamond is one of the most precious stones on Earth and is used to mark many special occasions. It is derived from the Greek work "adamas," meaning enduring and unconquerable, and an event celebrating 60 years is known as the diamond anniversary.
To that end, the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base will celebrate 60 years of existence as "America's Wing" when it hosts a Diamond Anniversary Salute, May 7-9, to mark the occasion.
The Diamond Anniversary Salute will be spread out over three days and include a kickoff reception, crud tournament, tours, a golf tournament, hangar call, gala and 5K color run, among other events.
According to the event's project officer, Maj. Sammi Bonney, Standardization and Evaluation division chief for the 552nd Operations Group, planning for the Diamond Anniversary Salute began in 1992 when she said she was fortunate to witness the 25th anniversary of the E-3 "Sentry" Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft.
"I had a great example of what such an event looks like when executed correctly, thanks to (former 552nd ACW Commander) Brig. Gen. Ben T. Robinson," she said.
As you can imagine, this event is quite the undertaking and requires months of planning and preparation, which actually began late last year.
Major Bonney said she has 10 functional leads supporting eight event leads, "much like functional component commands provide unique capabilities to geographic combatant commands."
"Our volunteers come from every group in the wing and the team's diversity has opened doors and made difficult goals attainable," she said.
She said working with the volunteers has been "one of the best parts of the task."
"When you get put in a position where you can play to people's strengths, there is no limit to what they can achieve," Major Bonney said.
"That is, unless you ask Capt. Carlye Sweet with the 552nd Operations Support Squadron, who has been charged with overseeing the budget," she said, tongue-in-cheek.
As the overall point-of-contact for the Salute, Major Bonney said she's come to learn the wing has "some amazing veterans."
"The alumni of the 552nd ACW are an impressive brotherhood that cares so very much about the welfare of our wing and Airmen to this very day," she said.
Veterans such as Bill Richards, John Anderson, Maury Hardy, Ruth Ovitt and former 552nd ACW commander Wylie Koiner, to name a few, Major Bonney said.
Col. Jay R. Bickley, 552nd ACW commander, said the wing has a rich history and being able to honor that history during the Diamond Anniversary Salute "is really a special opportunity."
"Since its inception 60 years ago, the 552nd has been involved in every significant combat operation the United States has participated in and has performed with distinction," he said. "It is a true honor to be among those who have had the privilege of commanding it."
The commemoration kicks off on May 7 with a reception to welcome guests, with Gen. Lori Robinson, Pacific Air Forces commander, providing opening remarks.
The following day 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.
The final day begins with Del City's dedication of the remaining E-3 replicas on Sooner Road, culminating with a black-tie gala at the Oklahoma City Petroleum Club, featuring U.S. Strategic Command Deputy Commander and former 552nd ACW Commander Lt. Gen. James Kowalski as the keynote speaker.
"I believe attendees will have an opportunity to see just what an amazing team they are a part of, and how impressive their colleagues are," Major Bonney said. "Active duty from all Air Force Specialty Codes, Reservists, coalition partners, veterans, community supporters, contractors, spouses...only together have we been able to deliver sustained global command and control excellence for 60 years."
Major Bonney said she expects approximately 3,000 active duty and retired military, families and community leaders to attend at least one of the many anniversary events over the course of the three days.
"I just would like to thank our veterans, Team Tinker and our Oklahoma community partners for helping to make the Diamond Anniversary Salute an event worthy of all of the men and women who have and continue to dedicate their lives to this service," she said.