Outstanding Airmen of the Year: Tech. Sgt. Jennifer G. Thomas 

The Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2022 will be formally recognized at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference from Sept. 19 to 21 in National Harbor, Md. Air Force Magazine is highlighting one each weekday from now until the conference begins. Today, we honor Tech. Sgt. Jennifer G. Thomas, the vehicle deployment manager for the 441st Vehicle Support Chain Operations Squadron at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. 

Thomas’ VSCO squadron at Langley-Eustis is the headquarters for her career field. When Air Force vehicles are needed to support an operation—particularly one on a humanitarian scale—her unit is the first call. So when the news first surfaced that thousands of Afghan evacuees were arriving in the U.S. as part of Operation Allies Welcome, Thomas knew she needed to get involved promptly. 

“When I heard what was going on, I reached out to my supervision leadership to see what I could do to help,” she said. “We needed to find out quickly what the requirements were.” 

That rapid response and eagerness would be crucial in supporting and transporting 15,000 Afghan evacuees who were already en route to the U.S. The scope of the mission and its asset requirements came in last-minute, so Thomas had very little time to assemble a vehicle package that could support such a large number of evacuees. 

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jennifer G. Thomas, the 441st Vehicle Support Chain Operations Squadron’s noncommissioned officer in charge of vehicle disposition and lease management, stands in front of vehicle assets at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Aug. 19, 2022. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Olivia Bithell.

By contacting fleet managers at bases around the country, Thomas developed a 57-vehicle package comprising buses, fire trucks, tractors, and trailers.

“Within a week, we were able to gather [about] half of the requirements,” she said. “A lot of the vehicles came from across the country, from Texas and California.” 

Operation Allies Welcome wouldn’t be the first time Thomas’ expertise would prove imperative to a humanitarian effort. In 2022, the Department of Homeland Security reached out to Thomas’ squadron to help support 3,000 Haitian evacuees who were trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. They needed a place to stay, with less than 48 hours to make it happen. 

“We were able to house them at Laughlin Air Force Base,” Thomas said, after securing and deploying assets to the border in less than 24 hours. 

Thomas’ acumen within her unit is not only saving lives, but also making humanitarian efforts more efficient across the Air Force. She led Air Forces Central Command’s mission drawdown by redistributing 680 vehicles throughout 18 locations, ultimately saving $35 million in acquisition costs. 

She credits her daily motivation to her husband, her unit, and the wing 5/6 for which she is the Vice President. The 5/6 takes care of Airmen at Langley by way of organizing events, game nights, and concerts as well as remodeling recreational rooms. The members also recognize their fellow Airmen for outstanding performance with a “Strive for Five” award. 

Thomas is also the group Combined Federal Campaign representative and the squadron booster club president, overseeing 12 committees. She has coordinated 27 volunteer events for her units in her personal time that have raised $121,000 and led her unit to win the Volunteer Unit of the Year Award. 

Thomas said helping people isn’t so much a choice as it is part of her nature—it’s just something she’s always loved doing.

“I think I get it from my mom and my dad,” she said. “I don’t know. It just makes me feel good.” 

Indeed, taking care of others is Thomas’ M.O.—especially others in her unit, because her unit has taken care of her, too. She said they are what truly what make any of her success possible to begin with. 

“I want to thank my unit,” Thomas said. “Last year was a challenging year for me and my family. My unit gave me a family-like environment. They took care of us from the very beginning.” 

Meet the other Outstanding Airmen of the Year in 2022 below: