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Commentary: Tinker legacy: Warfighters depend on you

Paul Ray

Paul Ray

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- I have served this country on the ground, in the combat zone in two wars, 30 years apart.
   In both of those wars, whenever I heard or saw an aircraft, my pulse rate would go down a few beats, my blood pressure would drop a little, and my breath would come a little easier.
   I was actually able to relax a little. "Why would that be?" you might ask. The answer is because I knew that aircraft was one of ours. I knew the mission of that aircraft was to protect me.
   All of the aircraft in the inventory are tied together with a similar mission: to protect the folks on the ground. The fighters and bombers put the warheads on the foreheads. But they don't go anywhere without tankers. And nobody flies without the E 3's eyes in the skies.
   They all work together to make the combat zone a little safer for our warriors.
   Trust me when I say folks on the ground are considerably safer because the United States Air Force is in the air. Air Force aircraft are there because of what you do here.
   Believe it or not, everything you do at work has a direct effect on the life expectancy of America's warriors. It makes no difference if you do pre-flights, spray paint, shoot rivets or tweak the adjustments on magic boxes.
   We must produce aircraft the Air Force can depend upon because there are lots of brave people in very bad situations depending upon the aircraft of the U.S. Air Force to be there every time they are needed. You are the people that make that possible. You are the reason they can take that moment to relax.
   You are the reason the bad guys think twice before engaging U.S. troops. You are the reason the bad guys bolt when they hear a jet engine. Our ground bound warriors depend upon us/you to provide the Air Force with the best aircraft they can possibly have.
   Our warriors depend upon you to do the very best job you can possibly do, every time you do whatever it is you do. Your warriors are risking their lives for your freedom. That gives them the right to expect you to do no less than your very best every time you do whatever it is you do. They deserve it and we owe them that.
   Thank you for being here, thank you for doing what you do and God bless the United States Air Force.
   Keep 'em flyin'. 
(Editor's note: Mr. Ray retired Aug. 31 after 37 years of federal service.)