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NEWS | Aug. 25, 2022

Leadership Through Action

By Airman 1st Class Olivia Bithell 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Jennifer Gloria “JT” Thomas, 441st Vehicle Support Chain Operations Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of vehicle disposition and lease management at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, was recognized as one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2022.

Thomas is the first person in her career field at VSCOS to win this award. She began her Air Force career in 2007 holding various positions within fleet management. Her direct actions and support of the mission has saved the Air Force more than $35 million in acquisitions costs by redistributing 680 vehicles throughout 18 locations.  

“The mission for my unit is to deliver premier enterprise vehicle support to meet dynamic warfighter needs,” Thomas said. “This means we enable Air Force mission success by providing the vehicles they need when they need it.”

Thomas’ squadron is responsible for managing $11 billion worth of assets from cradle to grave, as well as sourcing them out to support Air Force mission objectives. Their operations are vital and require strong leadership to ensure vehicle packages are sufficient.

“JT is one of those people that I can count on as a chief without thinking twice about it,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Patrick Kelleher, 441st VSCOS senior enlisted leader. “I know that she hasn’t had the luxury of decades of service like I have, but [Thomas] is capable and demonstrates it all the time. She makes sure her team is represented, before her own needs.”

During her career, Thomas has supported humanitarian efforts that saved approximately 15,000 Afghan evacuees during the 2021 Operation Allies Welcome and 3,000 Haitian migrants during the 2022 Haitian support mission. She also served as the 5/6 vice president, unit booster club president, and group combined federal campaign representative, who oversaw 12 committees and coordinated 27 volunteer events, raising $121,000 for multiple charities.

“I’m glad my unit took part in that [OAW],” said Thomas. “It felt amazing to be involved in the relief efforts that derived from collaboration.”

Thomas admitted that she does not like being in the spotlight and did not expect to win the OAY award. She was motivated to apply for NCO of the Year at the squadron level by her husband, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Marquis Thomas, 441st VSCOS section chief of Air Force vehicle energy management.

Though she had numerous accomplishments, Thomas expressed that 2021 was a difficult year. Her husband was diagnosed with cancer right after Christmas of 2020. She was by his side every step of the way, through to his remission and still carried on to accomplish the Air Force’s mission.

“At that time is when my unit proved that we’re a family. Everyone, top to bottom showed their overwhelming support. My leadership made sure we had everything we needed and told us not to worry about anything except getting him better,” said Thomas.

Thomas credits the support of her unit and motivation from her husband, making everything possible. Her team allowed her to take care of her family and she is extremely grateful for them.  

“When my husband got better, I was able to go back to work full time and I went hard for the rest of the year. I felt that I owed my team and the unit for everything that they had done for us, so I jumped on everything I could help with,” said Thomas.

As a leader, Thomas does not shy away from a challenge. She described her leadership style as empowering and service oriented. Thomas pushes her team to hold themselves, each other, and herself accountable, to sustain unit performance.

“I personally care about my people and our team,” Thomas said. “I like to motivate others and see everyone grow. I don’t like just telling people what to do, unless it’s PT, that’s a different story.”

For JT, the award represents the strength and support of her unit and family. She was able to tackle major projects and be there for her team, all while helping her husband recover.

“[JT] is adept at understanding the environment she’s working with. You can regularly see her inspiring comradery because she cares deeply about the people that are in her circle and those she comes into contact with,” said Kelleher.