Building dedication honors unit legend

  • Published
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

A dedication ceremony was held at the 97th Intelligence Squadron headquarters facility here June 30.

The facility was dedicated Tennant Hall in honor of retired Chief Master Sgt. Thomas H. Tennant who played a major role establishing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in multiple units which later became the 97th IS.

“Today we recognize a chief, an operator, leader and friend who gave so much to his Airmen and mission,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Saraceno, 97th IS commander. “I never had the chance to meet Chief Tennant, but I wish I did. If he were serving today, I would want him by my side. He was the type of chief every squadron commander wants on their team.”

Tennant served 31 years in the Air Force, enlisting in 1950 as a Russian linguist. In 1958, he became an airborne cryptologic linguist and over the next 24 years logged more than 7,500 flight hours.

“We are honoring … the godfather of airborne operations,” said retired Maj. Dick Oliver, who served with Tennant during multiple assignments. “It’s absolutely appropriate for us to recognize Tom for his service and name this building in his honor.”

Tennant first arrived at Offutt in 1964 serving with Detachment 1 of the 6940th Security Wing, which would become the 97th IS. He led a team of 12-14 Airmen, working at the Strategic Air Command headquarters providing non-flying analysis support.

The following year Tennant helped establish the 6949th Security Squadron at Offutt. Their mission was to provide security service crews for SAC’s Big Team RC-135C Burning Pipe missions.

Tennant went on to serve in Vietnam before returning to Offutt in 1973. For his second tour here, he served as the NCO-in-charge of the 6944th Security Wing, managing the wing’s new RC-135V Rivet Joint fleet.

After a tour in Thailand, Tennant returned to Offutt for his third and final assignment. While managing all Rivet Joint service crew support, he also spearheaded the NSA’s request for Spanish linguists during Nicaragua’s ongoing civil war.

“We have nothing but love and appreciation for what Chief Tennant did on behalf of us,” said retired Chief Master Sgt. John Schultz, a former Spanish linguist, who worked with Tennant during the civil war. “His magical management, unwavering support and outstanding leadership enabled us to accomplish our mission. This building is well named and I’m sure the people who are in it will continue with his spirit and can-do attitude.”

When Tennant retired in 1983, he had served as NCO-in-charge of every heritage ISR unit whose lineage is tied to the 97th IS. 

“This honor and dedication to the life and work of Chief Tennant … is incomprehensible,” said Penni Tennant-Schumacher, one of Tennant’s children, who was in attendance at the ceremony along with his wife. “The amount of time and effort and dedication and contributions of so many made this possible and we are humbled that you worked so hard to make this happen for him.”

Today, the 97th is one of the largest squadrons in the U.S. Air Force with more than 550 Airmen. On a daily basis they are deployed downrange providing combat ready aircrew to provide ISR support to warfighters and national leadership.