The USAF has revealed that 11 of 17 deaths at an Oklahoma air base this year were from natural causes – but six are still under investigation.
Tinker Air Force Base has found itself in the spotlight ever since Military.com confirmed that there have been 17 fatalities on the base this year, where more than 30,000 military personnel, government workers, contractors and civilians work.
Most of the 17 people who died were civilians, said Colonel Abigail Ruscetta, commander of the air base’s 72nd Wing.
A source told Military.com that some of the deaths were potential suicides, and some were related to Covid-19.
Colonel Abigail Ruscetta, commander of the air base’s 72nd Wing, said Thursday that 11 of the 17 deaths so far this year were from natural causes.
The base, south of Oklahoma City, is where 30,000 people work
“Tinker Air Force Base has had 17 fatalities since January of this year,” Ruscetta said, in a statement to DailyMail.com.
“Eleven of the civilian and uniformed airmen lost died of natural causes or accidents.
“The remaining six losses are the result of other causes, some of which are still under investigation.”
There are few details of those who died at the base. Only an obituary of Senior Airman Tyler Jo Law, who died May 28, listed her at the base.
The obituary did not reveal a cause of death. Ruscetta said the Air Force was working to support friends and loved ones of those who died.
“Every death, whether by suicide or otherwise, is a tragedy,” she said.
“After each loss of life, the leaders of the affected unit pledged to their people to recognize the loss of a valued teammate.
“We offered many support options, including a network of helping agencies, mental health counselors, chaplains and military family readiness professionals.”
Tinker Air Force base is home to 30,000 military, government employees, contractors and civilians
It’s unclear how many of the fatalities were service members or what their job was at the base, which has more than 30,000 people on site.
Government employees, contractors, and civilians all make up Oklahoma’s base workforce.
A source told Military.com that there are potential COVID-19 related deaths in addition to suicides.
“We are deeply saddened by the losses we have suffered at Tinker Air Force Base,” Colonel Abby Ruscetta, the installation’s commander, said in a statement.
“Our goal for the future is to let everyone know that we appreciate them and that we are united as a team.”
Ann Stefanek, Air Force spokeswoman, said the Department of Defense is responsible for all statistics highlighting suicides on bases, but they are never released with specific numbers for each branch. military.
There is also no law preventing an individual database from publishing the number of deaths.
Senior Airman Tyler Jo Law died on base May 28
Tinker is located in Oklahoma City and is also home to naval facilities and the Defense Logistics Agency.
The Air Force reported 17 force-wide suicides between Jan. 1 and March 31 this year, according to the Department of Defense.
Kimberly Woodruff, the base’s spokeswoman, said she was “committed to fostering a culture that values and encourages help-seeking behaviors and builds individual confidence.”
“Officials at Tinker Air Force Base are committed to our people in the wake of the recent loss of life and have a network of aid agencies including mental health counsellors, chaplains and health care professionals. preparing military families,” she added.
Teri Caserta, an activist on behalf of military families after her son’s suicide in 2018, said she saw social media posts suggesting a wave of suicides in Tinker.
At least five crew members aboard the USS George Washington (pictured) have been confirmed to have died by suicide. There have been others who have tried but failed to commit suicide
“Tinker does not have to release the names of deceased Airmen/women, but I believe that we, as citizens who have servicemen and who have children who plan to serve our country, deserve to know why and how Airmen / women die,” says Caserta.
“We need to know that the Air Force takes all deaths as seriously as they claim, and if there is any toxicity within Tinker’s ranks, they should all be held accountable for those deaths, whether they are whether or not suicides.”
The Air Force announced two weeks ago that it was updating its mental health policies related to the law named after Caserta’s son, Brandon, which passed in 2022.
The Army and Navy have been candid about what have been described as “cluster suicides” in recent years.
Last year, the Navy moved 260 sailors from the USS George Washington following several deaths and suicides on board.
In the year before the announcement, the ship had lost seven crew members. In April alone, the ship suffered three apparent suicides.
The base also named each of the deceased crew members, contrary to the transparency levels posted by the Air Force.