The Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma has refused to disclose the causes of death for 17 base personnel this year, Military.com reported.
Tinker Air Force Base wouldn’t elaborate on a statement that the 17 personnel died from “various causes,” and said that several deaths were still under investigation, according to Military.com.
Multiple social media posts, as well as a source tied to the base, alleged that the Tinker Air Force Base has been afflicted by a number of suicides.
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“I’m sorry, but we are not going to release the number of deaths at Tinker,” Kimberly Woodruff, a spokesperson for Tinker Air Force Base, told Military.com. “We have ongoing investigations and to protect the families and the units, we won’t comment on those numbers. It is Air Force policy that we do not disclose information about deaths or their circumstances.”
There is no policy that prohibits releasing the number of deaths at Air Force bases, according to Department of the Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek, Military.com reported. Tinker Air Force Base public affairs later released the number of deaths from the current calendar year to Military.com, but did not disclose their causes.
Several other branches of the military have been swift in identifying deaths and suspected suicides, according to Military.com. The Army and bipartisan lawmakers brought attention to several suicides of service members stationed in Alaska in 2022, and – when inquired – the Navy immediately confirmed to Military.com the deaths and suspected suicides aboard the USS George Washington and USS Theodore Roosevelt.
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Teri Caserta, the mother of a Navy sailor who died by suicide in 2018, said that the base needs to be held accountable for releasing details about the deaths. Caserta helped spearhead the creation of the Brandon Act – named after Castera’s late son – which allows military service members to confidentially seek mental health treatment.
“Tinker does not have to disclose the names of the airmen/women who have died, but I believe we as citizens who have service members and who have children looking into serving our country deserve to know why and how airmen/women are dying,” Caserta said in an email Wednesday, according to Military.com. “We need to know that the Air Force takes all deaths as seriously as they claim and, if there is toxicity within the ranks at Tinker, they all should be held accountable for these deaths whether they are suicides or not.”
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