Sustainment Center mourns loss of former commander

  • Published
  • By Amy Schiess
  • Air Force Sustainment Center

The Air Force Sustainment Center family is mourning the loss of retired Lt. Gen. Donald E. “Gene” Kirkland, who died Oct. 5 in Oklahoma City.

Kirkland was the third commander of AFSC, which is headquartered at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. He served in the role from 2018 until his retirement from the U.S. Air Force in 2021. He had 33 years of service.

“Lt Gen Kirkland is a giant within the history of AFMC leaders,” said Gen. Duke Richardson, commander of Air Force Materiel Command. “He held and wildly succeeded in our toughest logistics leadership positions across the command. Even more importantly, he was just a good guy. Gene will always be a fondly remembered member of our AFMC Family.”

In late 2007, the Air Force assigned Kirkland as group commander at Minot AFB, North Dakota, after an incident involving unauthorized transfer of nuclear weapons revealed vulnerabilities within the Air Force’s strategic deterrence.

His leadership helped rebuild the proficiency of the group and restore confidence in the organization but, when asked, Kirkland would share the credit and shift the focus to the importance of the mission, as he often did in regard to the successes of AFSC.

“He was a humble patriot who cared deeply for his country and his Airmen,” said Lt. Gen. Stacey Hawkins, AFSC commander. “I was blessed to work directly for him, twice, over the past decade and witnessed his servant leadership, first-hand. I learned so many leadership lessons from him and we are all incredibly saddened by his passing.”

Kirkland joined the Air Force through Officer Training School in 1988. He served in numerous assignments throughout the United States as well as in South Korea and Qatar.

Following his retirement as AFSC commander, Kirkland served as the University of Oklahoma’s inaugural executive director of the Oklahoma Aerospace and Defense Innovation Institute (OADII) since Dec. 2021.

“Gene was a great American and a great leader. His impact on the University of Oklahoma during the short time he was able to be with us will be felt for generations. We were privileged to have him with us at OU for the time we did,” said OU Vice President for Research and Partnerships Tomás Díaz de la Rubia.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Special Olympics of Oklahoma.