At a time when so many military members are unable to return home, it is a welcome blessing to celebrate the retirement of a long-time service member.
Joe Bob Ritter grew up in Ardmore. His parents, Frank M. Ritter and Josephine Stewart, and his brother Vernon still live in town.
As a teen, Ritter was a three- time state meet qualifier in track at Ardmore High School. His father was in the Air Force when they maintained a base at Ardmore Air Park in Springer. Ritter said after graduating high school, there was not much for him to do around Ardmore, so he decided to join the Air Force and “see the world.”
When he filled out his dream sheet, he tried to opt for places no further than a tank’s worth of gas from Ardmore. That did not work out, as his first duty station sent him to Clark’s Air Force Base in the Philippines in 1981 where he was assigned as a C-130E Crew Chief in the 374th Organizational Maintenance Squadron. Later he was assigned as a flying Dedicated Crew Chief, 314 OMS, 314th Tactical Airlift Wing, Little Rock, Ark.
Ritter left behind his high school sweetheart, Ronna Holt, also of Ardmore. Ritter said he went to the Air Force, and she went to Oklahoma State. A few years later in 1985, the pair were wed. Immediately after leaving the Air Force, Ritter joined the Texas Air National Guard and was assigned to OUTLAWS of the 136th Aircraft Generation Squadron as the Assistant Crew Chief on C-130B, 58-0742. Ritter participated in several overseas operations, beginning with Desert Shield/Storm. “That was my first deployment, just after my son Jake was born in Nov. 1989,” Ritter said. “It was the first time away from family and friends. Thinking about it now, I realize my sons have been part of a military family at war since birth.” Ritter said he is proud of both Jake and his second son Clint, who was born in 1993.
As a crew chief, Ritter was on an airlift rodeo team, which he said is not like an Oklahoma rodeo, but a contest to see who can quickly inspect and refuel their aircraft. Twice, his team was ranked as the number 1 Air National Guard Unit Maintenance Team, and twice named the best maintenance unit in the Air Force though they were in the Air National Guard. Of those rankings, twice, the unit led by Ritter was ranked number 2 in the world in aircraft maintenance.
After Desert Shield/Storm, Ritter was promoted to Dedicated Crew Chief and assigned to Aircraft 85-1364. In 1997, he transferred to the 136th Maintenance Group as Quality Assurance Inspector. His assignments there included 2007 Quality Assurance Chief Inspector, 2012  Quality Assurance Superintendent, and 2016 Component Repair Branch Superintendent.
During his career, SMSgt. Ritter was deployed in support of operations Coronet Oak, Desert Shield/Storm, Provide Promise, Southern Watch, Joint Endeavor, Support Hope, Iraqi Freedom, Joint Guard, Joint Force, and Enduring Freedom. He also supported hurricane relief efforts for Katrina, Ike, Rita, Harvey,and Maria.
Throughout his career, Ritter said his wife Ronna was always supportive. In fact, Mrs. Ritter received the Yellow Rose of Texas award from Governor Greg Abbot for her efforts in supporting Ritter during his service and “keeping the home fires burning.” Ritter continues to have strong ties to the Ardmore community, as his and Ronna’s families remain in the area. Ritter currently commutes from north Texas to work for his brother at Red River Concrete and Design.