Four-star general holds roundtable at Tulsa Air National Guard Base

TULSA, Oklahoma — Heavy sleet and freezing temperatures didn’t stop a four-star general from visiting members of the Oklahoma National Guard at Tulsa Air National Guard Base Monday.

General Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau in Washington, DC, also hosted a roundtable with community leaders to explain the current mission of citizens serving as soldiers and airmen.

“The ability to work together and essentially maintain facilities and access is the best we can do,” said Hokanson, who serves as the president’s military adviser and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He spoke candidly with city, aerospace and airport leaders to share some of the National Guard’s needs as well as his vision for creating new incentives for recruitment. Panelists included Tulsa City Councilman Phil Lakin, Tulsa International Airport CEO Alexis Higgins, BizJet President Thomas Illner and American Airlines Maintenance Base CEO Ed Sangricco. Gen. Hokanson told them about the key role the 138th Fighter Squadron plays in supporting the Guard’s mission and ensured that Tulsa facilities continue to support that mission. The Tulsa base supports the second largest F-16 National Guard Fighter Wing in the United States with 21 primary assigned aircraft and 1,204 authorized personnel, according to local Guard leaders.

Like other military agencies, the National Guard faces challenges recruiting civilians. Hokanson described his plans to offer a new incentive: free health care. He believes that providing free health care to those who serve also benefits the guard member, his family and his employer.

Currently, the National Guard is recruiting young men and women, up to the age of 39, who “will receive an education and will be a part of something bigger than themselves.

“They can serve their country, get an education, develop leadership skills, but then also return to their communities — pursue their civic careers, live in the communities they want, and find that balance with their families,” Hokanson said.

He asked community leaders to be on the lookout for potential recruits: “So if you know of talented men and women who want to serve their country and still be a part of their community, we’d love for you to send them to us.”

Four-star general visit

2 News Oklahoma

Ed Sangricco, managing director of the American Airlines Maintenance Facility, is a retired Air Force and National Guardsman. His son also serves today, describing his 22 years of service to his country as “the best thing I’ve ever done. I can highly recommend it.”

During the community roundtable, Sangricco suggested military work to help those leaving military service get the accreditation they need to transition to civilian jobs … and said Tulsa’s large aerospace community offers a large pool of candidates for the National Guard. Additionally, he noted that American Airlines prefers to hire military veterans who will bring their skills and knowledge to the local workforce.

“They’re just good people. They learn something by doing what other people just don’t do,” Sangricco said. “They’re a tight-knit bunch, they’re loyal, they show up to work when they’re supposed to, and we support them 110%.”

In a one-on-one interview with Hokanson, 2 News anchor Karen Larsen asked: “You mentioned that you wished people could see the work that Guardsmen and women are doing here and around the world. What message would you share?”

Hokansan said he wishes people could see the work Guard soldiers were doing here and around the world.

“You would be amazed at what our young men and women are doing here in America, not just in defense of our country, in aiding partners and allies, and in national disasters,” Hokanson said. “They have a smile on their face because they committed to it. The chance to do that and make a difference is really important for them, for our country and for all of our allies and partners.”

Those allies include Ukraine’s military, which Hokanson says the National Guard began helping with training after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. He said the US developed the Joint Military Training Group in Ukraine in 2015.

“Since then, Guardsmen have been training Ukrainian soldiers and airmen, helping them advance and learn and correct the lessons they learned in 2014,” he said. “And you’re really seeing that now with their ability to go toe-to-toe with the much larger Russian army.”

Tulsa wasn’t the National Guard’s only stop in Tulsa. On Tuesday, he planned to travel to the Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester to review production.

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