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Tinker air shows instill family legacy

  • Published
  • By Megan Prather, Staff Writer

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — For Tech. Sgt. Lauren Gleason, 507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs Specialist, working at Tinker Air Force Base is a family tradition, and attending the air shows at Tinker were a memorable part of her childhood.

Her father worked on base for nearly 30 years, and would return from work with the now-comforting smell of jet fuel on his clothes, Gleason said. Her mother retired after 34 years of service at Tinker.

“My grandmother, Rosemary, began her career at Tinker in 1960, my dad started in 1980, just before my sister was born, and my mom in 1982, just before I was born. My sister has worked here for nine years, and my stepdad is retiring soon after 36 years on base. Between all of us, we have worked a combined 147 years at Tinker,” Gleason said. “It’s pretty clear we love this base.”

Gleason grew up in the original mile of Midwest City, right outside of Tinker, where the hustle and bustle at Tinker were a normal part of daily life.
“I basically grew up in the flight path of the runway, so it’s always been a part of my life,” she said.

From her childhood home, she would see the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft and KC-135s taking off, but attending the air show with her father proved useful for identifying the aircraft.

“They were all just planes to me. So when we’d go to the air show, we could see the aircraft up close and get on board. Getting a close-up view helped me realize that the Air Force had much more to offer than just the planes I would typically see flying here,” she said.

A photo from a September 1987 edition of the Tinker Take Off shows a 6-year-old Gleason hitching a ride on her dad’s shoulders as they explored the air show, which was then called the Tinker Open House.

“I remember it was very hot on the flightline, so I asked my Dad if he could put me on his shoulders so I could take a break from walking. My big sister was there, too, but didn’t make it in the photo. She still holds a little grudge about it,” Gleason joked about the photo.

“I think we enjoy taking our families to the air show because it’s a way to give them an inside look of what we do here on base. Our families sacrifice so much in order for us to serve in the military and as civilians. This gives them the feeling they are a part of it for a weekend.”

When Gleason graduated from Midwest City High School, she never imagined she would continue the Tinker legacy her grandmother started in 1960. But, after she took a few college classes and then enlisted in the Air Force in 2003, Tinker became her first duty station. She spent some time stationed in Germany and New Jersey, but eventually made her way back home to Tinker. Currently, she is a member of the largest Reserve flying wing in the state and works as a Public Affairs Specialist in the 507th Refueling Wing on the civilian side, and as a photojournalist in the Air Force Reserve.

“I love working here,” Gleason said. “Living in Midwest City for more than 30 years has given me the opportunity to see the city evolve, as well as the base. Now, I’m able to serve the base in two capacities, as a civilian and Reservist, which is a unique opportunity that Reserve Citizen Airmen have.”
These days, Gleason still enjoys attending the air show with her daughters, ages 8 and 11. Her oldest daughter attended her first airshow when she was just one month old.


“It makes me happy to see the look of awe on children’s faces when they look at military aircraft. When the flight and maintenance crews are present at the show to explain facts about the aircraft to the kids, it’s a way of encouraging future military and civil service careers. Even really young kids can gain lasting memories from air shows, and hopefully will encourage them to carry on the work we are doing today.”