Air Force officials have remained mum about the deaths of 17 people on an Oklahoma base this year, citing concerns for its active units as well as the families of those who have died.
When asked about the spate of deaths at Tinker Air Force Base, its spokeswoman Kimberly Woodruff told Military.com that the lives lost since the start of 2023 can be attributed to “various causes.” She initially declined to disclose the number of deceased, noting that several investigations are still underway.
“We are deeply saddened by the losses we have experienced at Tinker Air Force Base,” Col. Abby Ruscetta, the Tinker installation commander, said in a statement. “Our focus moving forward is to let everyone know we value them, and we stand together as a team.”
Currently, some 30,000 personnel, including government employees, contractors and civilians, are active on the base in Oklahoma City. A source there told Military.com they had been informed of several deaths this year, including potential suicides, as well as some related to COVID-19.
Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokesperson, said it was up to the Department of Defense to release suicide statistics, though those numbers tend to be service-wide and do not typically identify a specific base. While the agency later confirmed 17 deaths have occurred at Tinker Air Force Base this year, it declined to specify which are being investigated as suicides.
Between the start of 2023 and March, the Air Force reported 17 suicides across the entire active-duty force, including two in the reserves and five in the Air National Guard. according to the Department of Defense’s quarterly report. Last year, the Air Force reported a total 63 suicides in the active-duty service, 13 in the reserve and 14 in the Air National Guard.
Woodruff said that Tinker is “committed to fostering a culture that values and encourages help-seeking behavior and enhances individual confidence,” adding that officials have also “engaged with our people following the recent losses of life” and established Military Family Readiness, a collection of professionals, chaplains and counselors dedicated to fostering mental well-being.
© 2023 New York Daily News
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC