Tinker Air Force Base Col. Gary Donovan relieved of AWACS command

A Boeing 707 AWACS aircraft is prepared for flight recently at Tinker Air Force Base.
A Boeing 707 AWACS aircraft is prepared for flight recently at Tinker Air Force Base.

A colonel at Tinker Air Force Base has been relieved of his duties after an investigation found he failed to foster a culture of safety and berated crews for not flying training missions on short rest.

The U.S. Air Force announced that Col. Gary Donovan, 552nd Operations Group commander, was relieved from command on Monday.

Maj. Gen. Koscheski, 15th Air Force commander, said in a statement the 552nd Operations Group needs men and women who foster a culture of dignity and respect.

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“This means living by core values every day and empowering subordinate leaders to promote these values through teaching, coaching and mentorship,” Koscheski said. “It takes mutual respect to develop airmen, our most precious resource. To grow this culture, we need all airmen to embrace this mindset and know they are the decisive factor that makes us the world’s greatest Air Force.”

The 552nd Air Control Wing flies Boeing E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft.

AWACS planes have distinctive rotating black radar disks with a range of 250 miles and are known as the "eyes in the sky" for U.S. and NATO forces.

AWACS crews ordered to conduct sorties on low sleep, report says

In July, three sorties were canceled over concerns about crew fatigue, according to Military.com, which provides news to service members, veterans and their families.

According to the report, AWACS crews were ordered to conduct the sorties after getting half the sleep they needed for the exercises. The sorties were canceled.

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An audio recording of Donovan berating airmen was leaked online, and an anonymous person alleged a “toxic culture of leadership" in the operations group for Tinker's 552nd Air Control Wing.

Col. Keven Coyle, to whom Donovan reported, told Military.com in a written statement that the wing's guidelines call for allowing aircrews 12 hours of rest, including eight hours uninterrupted, before flying a sortie.

But according to an anonymous post online, “flying crews collectively were worried about not being able to swap sleep schedules with no notice” and when they arrived “the average amount of sleep garnered was around 3-4 hours.”

Donovan later could be heard on the leaked recording telling airmen: “At no point in my mind did I think I would walk in and find out that America’s Wing, the operational heartbeat of the command and control enterprise for the free world, would show up and say ‘I can’t execute this mission.’ Not once did that cross my mind. I can’t express to you the level of disappointment I have right now.”

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According to taskandpurpose.com, another site dedicated to news for active-duty military members, veterans and their families, the crews that showed up exhausted for the training sorties were not given “no-go pills” that help airmen rest.

Task & Purpose reported: “They scored poorly on the Operational Risk Management test used to gauge the crew’s readiness to fly, which led the aircraft commander to cancel the sorties.”

The news outlet previously reported an investigation confirmed Donovan failed to promote a culture of safety and maintain a healthy command climate that fosters order, discipline, teamwork, cohesion and trust.

Col. Wayne Frost, vice commander of the 552nd Air Control Wing, is replacing Donovan as head of the 552nd Operations Group, an Air Force spokesman told Task & Purpose.

Donovan was moved to other responsibilities at Tinker, according to the report.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Tinker Air Force Base colonel relieved of AWACS command