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Honoring Our Heroes

Colonel Dr Patricia Thomas: Age 50

Col Dr Patricia Thomas is currently serving honorably and consistently for the past 27 years. Her military service includes 15 years on Active Duty (1996-2011) in the U.S. Air Force, and 12 years in the U.S. Air Force Reserve (2011-present). Her Air Force Service Code (AFSC) is Acquisition Contracting. She is a recipient of the fifth highest ranking U.S. military honor, Defense Superior Service Medal. The Defense Superior Service Medal (DSSM) is a military decoration of the United States Department of Defense, which is presented to United States Armed Forces service members who perform superior meritorious service in a position of significant responsibility. Among her many other medals, citations and decorations are the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and the Joint Service Commendation Medal.

Col Thomas was born March 14, 1974, to her parents, A.J. and Lula C. (Rockett) Wells in Chicago, IL, until moving to Attala County, MS, in 1982. While in high school, she mastered playing the clarinet. She graduated from McAdams High School in McAdams, MS, in 1992. She received a band scholarship to play clarinet at Grambling State University (GSU). While attending GSU, she received an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) scholarship in January 1993. In December 1996, she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and Advertising, and she was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the U.S. Air Force to begin her military service.

Col Thomas’s first duty station was at Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB), CA, with the 30th Contracting Squadron. There she became proficient in Operational Contracting while supporting various space and missile missions and engineering squadrons. Her responsibilities also included leading the Construction and Services Flight where she led the implementation of the Government Purchase Card. During this assignment, Col Thomas obtained her Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of La Verne.

Col Thomas’ second assignment was at Maxwell AFB-Gunter Annex, AL. She was assigned to the Standards Systems Group where she became proficient in systems contracting and program management. During this timeframe, Col Thomas led the acquisition team that launched the satellite supporting the Air Force Portal. In 2001, she deployed to Pristina, Kosovo in southeastern Europe as the Lead Contracting Officer for NATO led Kosovo Force (KFOR) helping to secure the Balkans and to maintain a safe and secure environment for our US and NATO Allies. She returned to the US and continued to serve at Gunter-Annex until she was assigned to Tuskegee University Air Force ROTC, ‘Home of the Tuskegee Airmen’, as the Assistant Professor of Aerospace Studies. She taught sophomores USAF history and was the Senior Recruiting Officer and Education Officer from June 2003 – July 2006. During this assignment, she instituted the Bridge Scholarship where students with 5-year technical majors such as engineering and nursing can receive a one-year scholarship to cover their tuition fees.

Next, Col Dr Thomas was assigned to Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) Atlanta in Smyrna, GA, administering weapon system contracts for all branches of the U.S. military. As Deputy Group Chief of Acquisitions, one of her most memorable career moments was administering the contract for the Mine Resistance Ambush Protective (MRAP) vehicle which is designed to withstand improvised explosive devices and ambushes.

While assigned to DCMA Atlanta, Col Dr Thomas embarked on her second deployment. She was deployed to support Operation Iraqi Freedom July 2007 to July 2008 at Balad (Anaconda), Iraqi. She commanded this effort as the Theater Lead Contracting Officer with two primary missions: Theaterwide Transportation Mission (TTM) and Combat Life Support Services (CLSS). These missions required her to dangerously travel through the entire country on average accumulating over 1200 flight hours. Following this assignment, Col Dr Thomas received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal. After her tour in Iraq, Col Dr Thomas served at the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, AL from May 2009 – November 2011 teaching military leadership to joint force military majors and American Cultural Studies to international officers.

Col Dr Thomas transferred to the USAF Reserve in December 2011 and served as the Acquisition Contracting Officer with DCMA Manassas, VA. She was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in October 2012, and in March 2013, Col Dr Thomas deployed to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Khandar, Afghanistan. During this timeframe, she led the entire southern region as the Southern Afghanistan Contracting Lead. She developed and designed the historical ‘Operation Tire Strike” which involved returning leased vehicles back to the original leasing companies saving the US tax payers millions of dollars.

From 2014-2017, Col Dr Thomas led the entire DCMA organization Contract Closeout effort resolving several closeout issues and taking the entire organization out of ‘Red Zone’ into the ‘Green Zone’. Within DCMA, Col Dr Thomas’ assignments included DCMA Baltimore and supporting DCMA Huntsville, DCMA Lockheed Martin Fort Worth, DCMA Dallas, DCMA Lockheed Martin Orlando and DCMA Santa Ana. Her last assignment with DCMA was supporting DCMA Central Region in Chicago, IL, and the Senior Reservist for the entire agency.

In 2018, Col Dr Thomas was one of less than 1% of the Lt Cols and Cols selected to attend the prestigious Air War College (AWC) at Maxwell AFB, AL. During this time, she was also promoted to Colonel. While attending AWC, Col Dr Thomas led her team in establishing a Civil Air Patrol Unit at Goodwin Middle School, and their effort yielded accolades from the Secretary of the Air Force, the Honorable Heather A. Wilson. During this timeframe, Col Dr Thomas earned a Master’s Degree in Strategic Studies from the Air University and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from Capella University.

In 2020, Col Dr Thomas, obtained her Doctorate in Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix. Her dissertation is titled, “Factors Contributing to Promotion of Females U.S. Air Force Field Grade Officers..”, aimed to shed light on some of the reasons females exit the USAF. Once leaving DCMA, Col Dr Thomas was assigned to serve as the Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA) to the Senior Contracting Official for Pacific Command and USINDOPACOM located at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam (JBPHH), Hawaii. Colonel Thomas is one of only four Colonels in the USAF Reserve Contracting career field.

Most recently, Colonel Thomas was hand selected to serve as the Acting Reserve Advisor to the Air University Commander and President. She also serves as the Program Director of the Air Reserve Component Seminar supporting Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard Majors through Colonels at Maxwell AFB, AL.

Col Dr Thomas’ philosophy about her military service is: “As I reflect over my 27 years of service, my military career has been outstanding. After having my first child at the age of 14, my desire was to make my parents proud and to be a successful parent. The military gave me the opportunity to do both and to become an amazing military officer and citizen. I have enjoyed defending our nation, and I have embraced the challenges along the way. I would not trade it for anything. I look forward to serving for many more years to come. I am proud that my oldest son has joined the U.S. Army and is serving as a Chaplain. My youngest son is currently enrolled in Tuskegee University’s AFROTC program. Col Dr Thomas is a Christian and someone who is unselfishly volunteering, giving and supporting others, and pours into our youth so they too can believe that they can achieve greatness as well.

Col Thomas has three children and three grand-children. She is a member of the Maxwell Faith Chapel at Maxwell AFB, AL. She enjoys volunteering, exercising and taking cruises. She is a member of Iota Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc., serving as the National Risk Management Chair and the Southern Region Financial and Recording Secretary. She is also a member of Kappa Epsilon Psi Military Sorority.

In 2021, Col Dr Thomas received proclamations from Attala County, MS, and McAdams High School in McAdams, MS, recognizing her as the first African- American female to be promoted to the rank of colonel in the U.S. Air Force from Attala County.

In 2022, Col Thomas launched the Colonel Dr Patricia Wells-Thomas (PWT) Foundation. The primary reason for starting this foundation is to help veterans and youth. This involves teaching life skills to youth. Additionally, this foundation provides a scholarship to McAdams High School Seniors. The scholarship grants $1,500 to a McAdams High School senior that will be attending one of the 107 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). If the student participates in an ROTC program at the HBCU, an additional $500 is awarded. Students can apply from December 1st through March 1st each year. The Foundation hosts a Veterans Day socks drive and provides Christmas cards to the residents at the Crowne Health Care Center in Montgomery, AL.


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