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News > ELITE group serves Tinker, community
ELITE is more than an acronym for a growing group of Tinker Airmen who believe in giving back to the base and local community. Empowerment, Loyalty, Inspiration, Teamwork and Equality is the foundation of the team’s efforts whether helping clean a local Ronald McDonald House, work a children’s carnival on base, or spend time with veterans off-base in a veterans’ center. Members pictured include, front from left; Amn. Dominic Capleton, 72nd Security Forces Squadron; Airman 1st Class Sadat Kahin, 552nd Training Squadron; Airman 1st Class Frank Spencer 552nd Maintenance Squadron. Middle from left; Airman 1st Class Jacob Gross, 552nd TRS, ELITE secretary; Airman 1st Class Alejandro Hardaway, 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron, ELITE assistant director of operations; Airman 1st Class Hikeen Carr, ELITE vice president; Airman 1st Class Tiheisha Bolles, 72nd Operations Squadron, ELITE director of operations; Airman 1st Class Kristopher Gooden, 552nd TRS,ELITE president. Back from left; Airman 1st Class Adam Price, 552nd TRS, ELITE project manager; Airman 1st Class Christopher Jackson, 552nd TRS; Airman Ryan Falber, 552nd TRS; and Airman 1st Class Jennifer McElroy, 72nd Medical Operations Squadron. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)
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ELITE group serves Tinker, community

Posted 1/6/2011   Updated 1/6/2011 Email story   Print story


by Nicole Turner
Tinker Public Affairs

1/6/2011 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.  -- It was drive, determination, compassion and loyalty that lead Airman 1st Class Kristopher Gooden to enlist in the Air Force and represent his country. It was the same qualities that lead him to create a local volunteer and community service group called, "ELITE."

Airman Gooden was first stationed at Tinker Air Force Base in June. When he arrived, he wanted to do more to make a difference in the community around him. In only two months, Airman Gooden was able to create ELITE, which stands for Empowerment, Loyalty, Inspiration, Teamwork and Equality.

"I just wanted to create a positive influence," Airman Gooden said. "We are doing this because people today don't have many role models to look up to, and we want to be those role models."

According to the mission statement, which was created solely by Airman Gooden, the purpose of ELITE is for its members to mentor and be positive role models to youth and students, while working together with strong heart, motivation and determination to give back to the community by helping others.

When Airman Gooden began working on the program, he started by producing a mission statement and creating a logo, and then proceeded by recruiting members who live in his base dormitory to join ELITE There are currently 20 members in the program, which all consist of Air Force men and women. However, Airman Gooden said he wants to recruit members of the Navy as well.

ELITE is in its beginning stages of becoming a recognized organization. Though it is not part of the Department of Defense, Airman Gooden has taken professional steps to make sure the program is validated.

The steps he had to take included writing a constitution and bylaws, submitting a formal list of the leadership officers in the group and finally submitting a request to the 72nd Force Support Squadron to install and validate ELITE, which will be the last stage for the group to successfully and formally operate on the base.

The leadership officers in the group consist of a president, which is Airman Gooden; vice president, Airman 1st Class Hikeen Carr; director of operations, Airman 1st Class Tiheisha Bolles; assistant director of operations, Airman 1st Class Alejandro Hardaway; secretary, Airman 1st Class Jacob Gross and project manager, Airman 1st Class Adam Price. Members in these positions are the first point of contact for ELITE, and it is operated on a majority vote.

"I always utilize my team when making important decisions," Airman Gooden said. "We always discuss things together as a group."

Though the program is fairly new, more people are using it because they've heard about it through word of mouth. Since the inception of ELITE, members of the organization have helped with about 15 events at Tinker. The first project the group worked on was within the base dorms, where they cleaned out soil, dirt and weeds in the flower beds on the dorm grounds.

Staff Sgt. Rachel Bowers, currently a career enhancement supervisor in Outbound Assignments/Promotions in the 72nd Air Base Wing, worked with ELITE to help set up the project. Sergeant Bowers was previously an airman dorm leader and is a supporter of the group.

"They did very well and made sure everything was cleaned out properly," Sergeant Bowers said.

Sergeant Bowers is very impressed with both Airman Gooden and the program he is working on creating through ELITE. She said she wants more people to be aware of the group

"He's a very intelligent individual," she said. "The program is geared toward the younger Airmen to help them step up and get involved in more leadership positions. They are trying to outreach more of the Airmen that reside in the dorms and to do more community involvement.
They try to have a mentorship so they can know one another. It's a great program and I've been trying to encourage more airmen to join."

ELITE also helped with the annual Halloween party at the Vanwey Recreation Center. They worked on setting up, breaking down and cleaning up at the end of it; as well as ran several activities and provided entertainment by acting as the event disc jockeys.

Dell Armstrong, Vanwey Recreation Center manager in the 72nd FSS, said ELITE was a huge part of the planning process for the party, and the members were respectful and easy to work with.

"I highly recommend this group and I was honored to work with them," Mr. Armstrong said. "In my 30 years of government service I have seen no organization do it better. They are excellent wingmen and a credit to the Air Force."

Airman Gooden said he is excited that people are using the service ELITE provides, and hopes to enlarge the group and continue to volunteer as much as possible.

"We are always willing to help," he said. "That's our purpose, and right now, we are doing whatever we can get our hands on; basically anything to help people out on the base."

ELITE members even volunteer their time to help with childcare. The first Tuesday of the month, from 6 to 9 p.m., the Tinker Enlisted Spouses Network meets at the fellowship hall on base, and ELITE members provide on-site childcare for the spouses who bring children.

Lori Johnson-Vegas, adviser of TESN, works with ELITE often and supports the members in everything they do. She said she is extremely proud of them for offering their time to TESN, and she said there are many spouses that would not otherwise be able to attend the meetings if it weren't for the free childcare ELITE provides.

"They are constantly looking for ways to help the Tinker community," Mrs. Johnson-Vegas said. "I'm amazed and thrilled at their intentions; it says a lot about the caliber of their character and heart. They have great integrity and they provide great hope for the future of the Air Force. It is exciting to see them stepping up into leadership and taking initiative at their age."

ELITE members have meetings every Saturday at the Latte Lounge. To join the group and find out more information about the program, or to request volunteer help from the group, contact Airman Gooden by phone at 862-754-2811 or by e-mail at kristopher.gooden@live.com. Also, become a fan on the Facebook page by searching "ELITE" at www.facebook.com.

"We are always looking for more members," Airman Gooden said. "Anyone who wants to make a difference can join."

He would also like to collaborate with other organizations on base such as the Junior Enlisted Counsel and the Dorm Counsel. Airman Gooden said his big dream for the program is for it to not only be local, but also expand to other places so that it can help more people and touch more lives.

"If I start small, I start somewhere," he said. "Other bases might want to eventually adapt it and if that happens, it would be so great."

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