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Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Tinsley
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Elmendorf mourns fallen commander

Airman 1st Class David Carbajal
3rd Wing Public Affairs

Team Elmendorf, the Air Force and America lost a mentor, leader, world-class airman and friend Sunday with the passing of the 3rd Wing commander, Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Tinsley, who passed away Sunday at his Elmendorf Air Force Base residence.

“It was an honor and a privilege to work for General Tinsley,” said Airman 1st Class Matt Owens, 3rd Wing. “He will be missed by not only me, but the rest of the Air Force.”

Tinsley took command of the 3rd Wing in May 2007 after a 22-month assignment as the executive officer to the Air Force chief of staff. Since he took command, there have been multiple changes in the wing, including new aircraft, joint basing actions with Fort Richardson, new construction and integration of the USAF Reserves and Alaska Air National Guard. Tinsley excelled at leading the charge to meet these challenges. He reached out to everyone as he guided the 3rd Wing, from local military commanders to city, state and national leaders.

“He was a good friend to Alaska, and we must not forget the valuable contributions he made to our country and state,” said Gov. Sarah Palin, who worked with Tinsley on several events, including the 2008 Arctic Thunder air show.

“He poured his heart and soul into that show,” said Maj. Kyle Anderson, air show director. “He wanted to put on the best air show Anchorage had ever seen, as a way to say ‘thank you’ to the community he cared about so much.”

His dedication did not stop with the Air Force and aviation. Tinsley was a warrior who cared for all the military services. He worked closely with the Fort Richardson leadership to care for the Soldiers stationed there by facilitating care and rehabilitation of Soldiers returning from Iraq at the Elmendorf hospital so they could be close to their families during their recovery. He also oversaw the consolidation of firefighting duties to Air Force personnel who cover both installations, and he worked hard to improve joint-use facilities, such as the new Shoppette on Elmendorf’s Provider Drive.

“Tom Tinsley was a dynamic leader and joint partner in making our Alaska based forces the tip of the spear in the Pacific region,” said U.S. Army Alaska commander Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Layfield. “He was a great friend, superb officer and genuinely gracious human being. All of us on the U.S. Army Alaska team mourn the loss of this outstanding leader and our deepest condolences go out to (his surviving family members) Joanna, Eden, and Tyler.”

Tinsley also had a great relationship with the Coast Guard, the Marine Corps and the Canadian Air Force. Many Canadian Air Force personnel are stationed at Elmendorf.

“General Tinsley was a true leader and airman warrior, and his untimely death is a loss to the Air Force and the nation, as well as to his family,” said Gen. Carrol H. “Howie” Chandler, Pacific Air Forces commander.

During his command, the 3rd Wing received the C-17 Globemaster IIIs and the F-22A Raptors, both highly anticipated airframes within the Pacific theater. Tinsley integrated this new strategic airlift and cutting-edge air superiority capability into the wing’s robust mission.

With these new aircraft, additional squadron and maintenance facilities were required, necessitating a massive amount of construction on the installation. Tinsley was integral to planning the future of the 3rd Wing. Along with these new weapons systems came new Total Force relationships with the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing and the USAF Reserve’s 477th Fighter Group, which Tinsley completely embraced.

“This is a tremendous loss,” said Maj. Gen. Craig E. Campbell, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard. “Brigadier General Tinsley fostered a great relationship between the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard.”

Tinsley loved Alaska and had been stationed at Elmendorf previously as the director of operations and the commander of the 12th Fighter Squadron from August 2000 to June 2003. He was deeply respected in the Anchorage community and believed in true cooperation between the base and local leaders.

Tinsley’s greatest love was his family – his wife Joanna; daughter, Eden; and nephew, Tyler. His love extended to his greater Air Force family. They were always on his mind and at the forefront of his priorities. Helping and improving his airmen is his legacy.

Tinsley was honored by the men and women of Elmendorf and the local community at an open memorial service Thursday at Elmendorf’s Hangar 1.


Editor’s note: The cause of death is under investigation. Story provide by the 3rd Wing Public Affairs Office.