TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — The state’s highest-ranking military commander recently hosted the first Oklahoma Commanders’ Summit aimed at building cooperation and efficiency among the state’s military installations across all service branches.
Lt. Gen. Lee Levy II, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center, headquartered at Tinker Air Force Base, called the summit a success for advancing the joint-service goals of the Department of Defense and for “the families of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.
“I think we would all agree it’s amazing what military capabilities we have in the state of Oklahoma, but it is also surprising how little we communicate,” Levy remarked at the start of the Feb. 19 summit. “I think from a warfighting perspective and a defense of the homeland perspective, we ought to do better. That’s why I wanted us to spend this time together, to get to know one another, to help us figure out better ways of taking care of our troops.”
Levy said the summit led to concrete ideas such as building a closer relationship among Fort Sill, Tinker and Altus AFB medical providers that may care for the same military members and their dependents. Due to military deployments, one of those health care providers may be in low or high demand at any given time, he said.
“Right now there’s really no forum for that type of discussion,” the general said. “One of the ideas that came out of today, and is easy to do, is to link the commanders of those medical organizations together so they can collaborate on ways to provide better care for our people. Ultimately, it’s not about the Army or the Air Force or other branches. It’s about active-duty families and active-duty members and how to best take care of them across the state of Oklahoma.”
Oklahoma’s major military installations include Tinker, Vance and Altus Air Force Bases, the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant and Lawton’s Fort Sill Army artillery and basic training base.
Army Col. Sean M. Herron, commander of the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, said the summit highlighted issues all service branches face.
“I think it was a great idea to bring us all together,” Herron said. “Until today, I didn’t realize there are a lot of the same issues we all talk about and try to solve from our individual levels. I think teamwork and coming together for one approach and working toward the same result allows us to integrate our practices and get a larger benefit for the whole team in Oklahoma.”
The commanders’ shared issues include civilian workforce hiring, coordinating disaster response, working with Oklahoma’s local and state public officials on military base needs, and ensuring military members and their families are taken care of.
“I think it helps the state overall and the installations overall to develop a sense of collaboration, and I want to be a part of that because what they’re doing is creating future veterans,” said summit participant retired Maj. Gen. Myles L. Deering, Oklahoma’s secretary of Veterans Affairs. “I want to assist in any way I can and assist anyone who’s transitioning out of service, but I also want to provide insight on dealing with government on the state level.”
Army Maj. Gen. John G. Rossi, Fort Sill commanding general, said the summit generated two clear benefits.
“I was not aware of the complexity of what they do up here (at Tinker), especially the logistics part of it,” the general said. “The second is the commonality that we have. Pulling all of the military in Oklahoma together to collectively help ourselves was fantastic.”
Levy said the idea for the summit began after he spoke with Gov. Mary Fallin about military issues.
“It occurred to me that we don’t have any standing relationship with one another, but most of us are only a couple of hours apart,” the general said. “I told the governor, if it’s OK with you, I’d like to go see all the bases and try to get everyone together and see where we have common areas of interest and common challenges, and then take it from there.”
The seven commanders plan to hold regular summits and possibly expand membership. Commanders who were available to attend the first summit also included retired Brig. Gen. Hopper T. Smith, land component commander, Oklahoma Army National Guard; Col. Clark J. Quinn, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance AFB; and Col. Todd A. Hohn, commander of the 97th Air Mobility Wing at Altus AFB.