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Team of former GM workers hang on at Tinker, may move back

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla., -- A combined 235 years devoted to the auto industry brought several former General Motors employees to the Tinker work force. Since the time Tinker leased the plant, several of the former GM employees have found out they will be re-distributed back to the plant as Tinker employees.

When the Oklahoma GM plant announced its closing in November 2005, more than 2,000 workers wondered what they would do.

"The day we found out the plant was closing a lot of emotional stress came up. We had the option to transfer, but I personally knew I didn't want to move away from home and leave my family. A lot of guys were offered to transfer for a couple of years until they were eligible for retirement," said Daryl Doss, sheet metal mechanic.

Once they found out GM was closing the doors, most were looking for a way to stay in Oklahoma. They decided Tinker's apprentice program was a perfect opportunity to stay local.

"We found out through Metro Technology Center that if we went through and got our A and P certification then Tinker would start us off as an apprentice. Once we got in and completed all of our hours then we would get bumped up," said Alan Garrison, B-1 Avionics mechanic with the 565th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

The Airframed and Powerplant certification is an FAA mandated certification for anyone in the civilian sector who works on an aircraft. The only people in the country able to work on aircraft are A&P certified and that is what the former employees had to get. Several of them took the initiative to get training, and have been working at Tinker for more than a year.

"We chose Tinker over the alternatives because a lot of us felt that we're too young to retire and that the mechanical work we were doing went hand in hand with the skills that were needed here," said William King, electronics mechanic.

Twice a year a team from Tinker interviews the graduating Metro Tech classes. If the team decides to hire a graduate, the graduate is told when and where to show up for their job. Job placement wasn't the easiest. The former GM employees had to go through an all-day interview process and were placed accordingly.

"It was a good move on Tinker's part, because at our age we already have that work ethic built in," said Mike Collum, electronics mechanic.

The members who opted for going through the 18 months of training and new job placement have done it to support their families, stay in the area as well as continue their working career rather than retiring.

"I used to look up at the planes going overhead the plant. Now being a part of those planes is a pretty proud moment. It's great to be able to follow one from the time it comes in at depot to the time it takes off," said Mr. Garrison.