TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- 'Once an Okie, always an Okie.' It's a mantra spoken by a group of several hundred former members of the 507th Air Refueling Wing. This group of Okies meets at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, every two years, and they met here Sept. 28-29.
Realistically, there were over 1,000 years of experience in the hangar during social hour. Many generations of Okies were present at the gathering, but the bulk of men and women there served in the 507th Tactical Fighter Group directly after the Vietnam War.
Many of these retired Citizen Airmen spoke time and time again about the camaraderie of the unit. They may have been flying the F-105 Thunderchiefs or F-4 Phantoms, but just like any day, it was all about people and the relationships.
"We've enjoyed it. You will find a lot of proud people who worked here and they come back here because they made things happen. They were true professionals," said Retired Maj. Gen. Lou Ferraro, former 507th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander from 1974-1982.
The Okie Reunion group meets at Tinker Air Force Base every two years to reflect on their service, catch up with old friends and meet new ones serving right here in the 507th Air Refueling Wing.
Current Okie, Lt. Col. Kenneth Humphrey, 507th Operations Group Commander, said it was fun and very humbling to spend time with the retired Okies.
"You're thinking you're one of the old guys and you've got the experience; then you realize you've got folks that have got twice, three times as much experience than you'll ever have in multiple different weapons systems," Humphrey said. "The stories that they've got just tell--you know, funny, challenging-- so it's fun to hear how things were."
One of these special Okie vets and group organizer of the Okie reunions had this to say about the event.
"We have a long history," said Retired Col. John Russell, former pilot with the 507th Tactical Fighter Group from 1977-1994. "The fighter guys I think maybe more so than what's going on with a lot of units at the moment. It's just a different breed of cat running around. We stayed together a lot, we deployed together a lot. And we enjoy doing things. And at the unit like the 507th here, we lived in the same area for the most part, and just had a great time."
The Okies encourage all active participating reservists to join them in all future events.