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12/15/2018
Volunteer Event - Wreaths Across America

Feature: Interview with Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Anthony Thomas, U.S. Air Force
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Military branch of service and rank  
U.S. Air Force, Lieutenant Colonel

Did you have a favorite assignment/job?
I wouldn’t necessarily call one a favorite over the other. They all had their unique pros and cons. Some locations, like Hawaii, were certainly better than others. But, if I had to single out one assignment/job, my most memorable assignment was when I served as chief, targeting cell, during the Bosnian Crisis, back in 1996. Although this was a challenging temporary duty assignment, I learned so much about being an effective leader. On a day-to-day basis, I had to provide timely and accurate advice/information in direct support of extremely high-level national and international objectives; the pressure and stress was immense. But, at the end of the day, my team (a multinational force) and I overcame tremendous challenges. We were extremely successful and accomplished above and way beyond what was expected. I can’t say enough good things about the men and women who served with me; they were extraordinary professionals. To them, I owe a great deal of gratitude for making me a better leader, poised and ready to overcome even greater challenges throughout my career.

Was there an experience at FEI that was particularly transformative for you? What was the most valuable lesson you learned from this experience? 
Yes, I would say a focused discussion on the book Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading, by Ronald Heifetz and Martin Linsky. Basically, an excerpt from the book sums it up perfectly: “Every day, in every facet of our lives, opportunities to lead call out to us. At work and at home, in our local communities and in the global village, the chance to make a difference beckons. Yet often, we hesitate. For all its passion and promise, for all its excitement and rewards, leading is risky, dangerous work.” As I stated during my graduation speech to LDS Class 404, this passage was very thought provoking for me. As I look back, this book, along with my overall FEI experience, encouraged me to take more risks and push the envelope in my professional career and personal life, and to continually seek opportunities to excel. The experiences helped me realize my personal goals and far exceed expectations. It was truly transformative.

What advice would you give to Federal workers as they transition from the military? 
I really think the military has done an outstanding job of creating outstanding leaders, and instilling high moral standards and ethical principles. That being the case, I’ll just offer a few key points that I think may help military members transition into successful Federal workers. First and foremost, you don’t have all the answers. Learn by asking lots of questions and listening. I mean really listening to what your employees, peers, and bosses have to say. Value their opinions, experience, and expertise. If you’re entrusted with a leadership role, actively engage and truly care for your employees, embrace diversity/inclusion, give clear guidance, and welcome alternative ways of doing things. In addition, make sure your folks have what they need to do their jobs. And last, but certainly not least, always recognize and reward individual accomplishments and team successes. If you do that, success will eventually come.

What was the last book you read?
I’ve read so many good books recently. The last book I read was The Power of Choice, Embracing Efficacy to Drive Your Career, by Michael C. Hyter. I’m currently reading Principles by Ray Dalio.

What are you listening to these days? What’s on your iPod?
Some of everything. My musical taste runs across multiple genres. But at the top of my play chart right now is a variety of smooth jazz, blues, and old school R&B.

If you were queen/king for a day with an endless pot of money, what one thing would you want to fix/change in the Federal workforce? Why?
The one thing would be to streamline and shorten the overall timeline and/or process for hiring new employees into Federal jobs. I think most would agree, it simply takes way too long to identify and bring on board job candidates.

Biography
Anthony C. Thomas became the deputy inspector general for intelligence and special program assessments, Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, and was appointed to the Senior Executive Service on March 10, 2013. He has more than 30 years of experience in the intelligence career field and has led and managed a myriad of activities, tasks, and functions in direct support of Department of Defense and national security objectives.

Prior to assuming the responsibilities of his current position, Mr. Thomas served in key leadership roles at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Counterintelligence Field Activity, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, providing mission-essential intelligence and counterintelligence to address high-level decisions, sensitive activities, and operations. Mr. Thomas began his professional career in 1985 as an Air Force intelligence officer. He served in numerous leadership positions at various headquarters and operational units, including the Strategic Air Command, U.S. Air Forces Europe, Air Combat Command, Air Staff, and the U.S. Pacific Command. He has been involved in multiple overseas deployments, air campaigns, and operational contingencies, including the Persian Gulf War and the Bosnian Crisis.

Mr. Thomas earned his Bachelor of Science degree in computer information systems from Alabama State University and his Master of Science degree in business administration (aviation) from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. His military education includes Squadron Officer School, Joint Forces Staff College, and the Air War College. He attended numerous intelligence training courses and is a graduate of the DIA’s Post Graduate Intelligence Program. He also completed the Senior Manager Course at George Washington University and attended the Federal Executive Institute and the Harvard Kennedy School. 

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