Lt. Col. Thomas retires from U.S. Air Force

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Grant native, Lieutenant Colonel Brian J. Thomas was honored by Colonel Sherri J. VeVan, Vice Commander, 55th Wing, who officiated the miliary ceremony on the occasion of Lt. Col. Thomas’ retirement from the United State Air Force on Thursday, Aug. 9 at 9:45 a.m., at the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron, Haun Auditorium Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

Col. LeVan praised Lt. Col. Thomas’ career and numerous accomplishments while adding some humorous highlights from his days as a young officer. She highlighted his love and dedication to the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron, which Lt. Col. Thomas commanded from 2015 to 2017.

Col. LeVan also recognized Mrs. Aimee Thomas for her dedicated support to Lt. Col. Thomas and most especially her support as a Key Spouse Mentor. 

Lt. Col. Thomas was presented the Meritorious Service Medal for his service as the 55th Operations Group Deputy Commander, responsible for organizing, training and equipping the group’s 2,600 personnel in 11 squadrons and two detachments to execute global airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and treaty verification missions as directed by the President, Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Combatant Commanders and national intelligence agencies. The 55th Operations Group is the largest operations group in the United States Air Force and operates seven separate models of aircraft. 

During his time as 55th Operations Group Deputy Commander, Lt. Col. Thomas was the 55th Wing’s lead action officer for the force-allocation coordination with Headquarters Air Force, Air Combat Command, 25th Air Force and national agencies.

In this capacity he managed 2,700 personnel and 33 aircraft from six mission design series, valued at $7.3 billion, to execute pre-deployment training for 1,050 personnel.

Lt. Col. Thomas directed execution of 1,009 training missions to meet six combatant command’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements and executed over 1,330 combat sensitive reconnaissance missions.

Additionally, he secured $30 million, the largest intelligence community training investment in 16 years, for a critical RC-135S/U mission crew simulator.

Lt. Col. Thomas identified the current RC-135S operations tempo was working at 150 percent of its capabilities, resulting in Air Combat Command requesting four additional crews to balance dwell time and Department of Defense deployments.

Finally, he drove WC-135 recapitalization for three aircraft and personnel to revitalize nuclear treaty readiness. 

Lt. Col. Thomas then thanked his colleagues, friends and family for their support over the years and acknowledged one question that had been asked, “Is there anything you felt was unfinished in your Air Force career?”

He responded, “The only thing unfinished is getting the correct number of aircrews to meet the mission demands, the math is simple, for each deployment crew, three crews are needed. Spin-up, Deployment Reconstitution – that is the cycle and we aren’t able to get there yet – the wing and Air Combat Command have pushed it but these needed ISR warriors aren’t here yet. That is what is unfinished. All else is done.”

Lt. Col. Thomas recognized and thanked his parents, Leland and Betty Thomas of Grant, for their love support and guidance as he grew-up, and his in-laws, Kenny and Linda Bro, for their love and support.

Lt. Col. Thomas closed the ceremony with the following:

Check open source....China, Russia and North Korea are not our friends; Mission First...People Always; Do what’s right, to hell with the rest; You are the best Air Force in the world and I love you. 


Lt. Col. Thomas grew up in Grant and graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1997. He received his commission in 1999 as a graduate of Officer Training School at Maxwell AFB, Ala. He attended Joint Specialized Undergraduate Navigator Training and Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) Training in Randolph AFB, Texas, graduating in the summer of 2000.

He was assigned to Offutt AFB, Neb., where he has served in the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron and the 338th Combat Training Squadron as an Executive Assistant, Evaluator/Instructor EWO and Flight Commander in charge of RC-135 EWO training.

Lt. Col. Thomas also career broadened under the Phoenix Wrench program as a Maintenance Operations Officer in one of Air Combat Command’s (ACC) largest Maintenance Groups. He was 338th CTS Company Grade Officer of the Year and 55th Wing Instructor of the Year, having previously earned the Group and Squadron awards.

He was also assigned to the 563rd Flying Training Squadron, Randolph AFB, Texas, as an Evaluator/Instructor Electronic Warfare Officer/Combat Systems Officer and Assistant Director of Operations where he oversaw daily operations executing 21,000 academic and 9,000 simulator training hours for 360 undergraduate flight students annually. 

He oversaw joint Air Education Training Command (AETC) and Defense Advanced REsearch PRojects Agency team $40 million airborne simulation program; improvements earned Air Force “Best Practice.”

He was the leader of the team recognized with AETC Learning Innovation Award, AETC Top Operations Squadron and AETC Chief of Staff of the Air Force Team Excellence Award.

He provided Quality Assurance for T-43A, T45 and T25 training, ensured Air Force Instruction compliance and incorporated realistic combat simulation into initial T-1S training and was the 563rd FTS Field Grade Officer of the Year. 

Lt. Col .Thomas was then assigned to Headquarters ACC, becoming the Command and Control Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C2ISR) Division’s Airborne Reconnaissance Operations Branch Chief.

As the Chief of the C2ISR Division’s largest and most diverse branch, he managed a $43 million budget and set ACC policy to support national intelligence requirements and was responsible for global and special C-20 operations. 

He directed AF ISR Global Force Management, met Joint Staff ISR Global Force Allocation Plan and oversaw deployment of 17,675 personnel, supporting 21,596 ISR missions.

He was deployed as Operation Unified Protector’s Electronic Warfare Coordination Center Chief and led Information Operations/Electronic Warfare/Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses planning for 27 nations executing 825 missions, which destroyed 285 targets and command networks during Libya’s liberation.

Lt. Col. Thomas earned Air Combat Command C2ISR Operations Division’s Action Officer of the Year. 

He returned to Offutt AFB, Neb., and served as the 55th Operations Group Director of Staff and 45th Reconnaissance Squadron Director of Operations. 

Lt. Col. Thomas previously was the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron, Commander and Director of Operations responsible for leading 183 aviators and support personnel conducting worldwide reconnaissance and treaty verification operations with four unique mission sets.

Under Lt. Col. Thomas’ leadership, the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron was deployed more than any other time in unit history and was recognized as 55th OG’s Reconnaissance Squadron of the Year and continued to be Air Combat Commands fastest deploying squadron.

Lt. Col. Thomas retires from the United States Air Force effective Oct. 1, 2018 as a Master Navigator with more than 1,500 flight hours. 

He and Mrs. Thomas will remain close to their children Josh, Savannah and Max in the Omaha metropolitan area. 


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