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“My most important role is of Commander, I just happen to be a woman”

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The commander of Offutt AFB’s 55th Wing is almost always on the go.Her work suit is her flight suit.Colonel Kristen Thompson has flown nearly 4,000 hours as a command pilot and more than 700 of those are combat hours.The list of planes she’s piloted is long.“T-37s and then the T-1s which are the trainer aircraft. The U-S E-3 AWACS. Then I went to fly the NATO version,” said Thompson, “KC 10s. RQ4/EQ4, so that’s our Global Hawk. I flew in the back of a Strike Eagle. The E-11 Bacon. The EC-130H Compass Call.”When Thompson became commander of the 55thth Wing, the largest wing in the USAF Air Combat Command, she became the first female in the Wing’s history to earn that job.Thompson recently sat down with KETV Newswatch 7 to talk about being the first.“I was a very reluctant warrior at first on that front but as I’ve increased in rank and responsibility I’ve seen the role that I can play for other females and other women,” Thompson added, “The Air Force is all about, we say the diversity and inclusion, and if I can be a part of that, and to help spearhead that sort of mantra, I’m all for it.”But being the first female commander is the not her focus.“My most important role is of Commander, and I just happen, just happen to be a woman,” Thompson said.As the commander of the “Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth”, Thompson has new battles to fight.“I tell everybody I have the trifecta of terrible,” Thompson said.That trifecta consists of the three “R’s”- Replacing Offutt’s runway- Rebuilding from the floods- Responding to the pandemic.First, the $198-million runway reconstruction.It forced a lot of workers, and planes, from Offutt to the Air National Guard base in Lincoln 50-miles away.“Sending maintainers, defenders and operators back-and-forth to Lincoln every single day is massive, so that’s a big thing that’s on my mind all the time,” Thompson said.But she gets some peace of mind from how the work on the runway is progressing.“We’re hearing on time and on schedule and right now it’s projected for September of ’22.”Second, rebuilding from the floods.The 2019 natural disaster destroyed a number of buildings and also displaced workers in Logistics and Intelligence.“A lot of them need special compartmentalized locations because what they do is so sensitive and when you don’t have those locations anymore because they were damaged or ruined because of the flood it’s really hard to do your job,” Thompson said.She said there are eight separate projects related to flood repair and three of those projects have been bid out.“We’re just going to demo a lot of those old buildings and we’re going to start that in January,” Thompson said.But because of all the moving parts and different people involved, Thompson said there is no set end date.Third, responding to the pandemic.Thompson said she hopes things are getting closer to “normal” but there are still certain requirements on base.Mask are required indoors and social distancing in general is encouraged.“So, we’ve taken some really prudent measures to make sure that everybody is doing okay,” said Thompson.Thompson’s most recent job before leading the 55thth was in United Arab Emirates, where she commanded the 380th Expeditionary Operations Group.She said her biggest surprise is how well the Omaha metropolitan community interacts with Offutt AFB in Bellevue and the support the base receives throughout the area.Thompson is a Southern California native and g 2001 graduate of the Air Force Academy.

The commander of Offutt AFB’s 55th Wing is almost always on the go.

Her work suit is her flight suit.

55th wing commander col. kristen thompson

KETV Newswatch 7

Col. Kristen Thompson

Colonel Kristen Thompson has flown nearly 4,000 hours as a command pilot and more than 700 of those are combat hours.

The list of planes she’s piloted is long.

“T-37s and then the T-1s which are the trainer aircraft. The U-S E-3 AWACS. Then I went to fly the NATO version,” said Thompson, “KC 10s. RQ4/EQ4, so that’s our Global Hawk. I flew in the back of a Strike Eagle. The E-11 Bacon. The EC-130H Compass Call.”

When Thompson became commander of the 55thth Wing, the largest wing in the USAF Air Combat Command, she became the first female in the Wing’s history to earn that job.

55th wing commander col. kristen thompson

KETV Newswatch 7

Col. Thompson discusses challenges facing Offutt AFB

Thompson recently sat down with KETV Newswatch 7 to talk about being the first.

“I was a very reluctant warrior at first on that front but as I’ve increased in rank and responsibility I’ve seen the role that I can play for other females and other women,” Thompson added, “The Air Force is all about, we say the diversity and inclusion, and if I can be a part of that, and to help spearhead that sort of mantra, I’m all for it.”

But being the first female commander is the not her focus.

“My most important role is of Commander, and I just happen, just happen to be a woman,” Thompson said.

As the commander of the “Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth”, Thompson has new battles to fight.

“I tell everybody I have the trifecta of terrible,” Thompson said.

That trifecta consists of the three “R’s”

– Replacing Offutt’s runway

– Rebuilding from the floods

– Responding to the pandemic.

First, the $198-million runway reconstruction.

It forced a lot of workers, and planes, from Offutt to the Air National Guard base in Lincoln 50-miles away.

“Sending maintainers, defenders and operators back-and-forth to Lincoln every single day is massive, so that’s a big thing that’s on my mind all the time,” Thompson said.

But she gets some peace of mind from how the work on the runway is progressing.

“We’re hearing on time and on schedule and right now it’s projected for September of ’22.”

Second, rebuilding from the floods.

The 2019 natural disaster destroyed a number of buildings and also displaced workers in Logistics and Intelligence.

“A lot of them need special compartmentalized locations because what they do is so sensitive and when you don’t have those locations anymore because they were damaged or ruined because of the flood it’s really hard to do your job,” Thompson said.

She said there are eight separate projects related to flood repair and three of those projects have been bid out.

“We’re just going to demo a lot of those old buildings and we’re going to start that in January,” Thompson said.

But because of all the moving parts and different people involved, Thompson said there is no set end date.

Third, responding to the pandemic.

Thompson said she hopes things are getting closer to “normal” but there are still certain requirements on base.

Mask are required indoors and social distancing in general is encouraged.

“So, we’ve taken some really prudent measures to make sure that everybody is doing okay,” said Thompson.

Thompson’s most recent job before leading the 55thth was in United Arab Emirates, where she commanded the 380th Expeditionary Operations Group.

She said her biggest surprise is how well the Omaha metropolitan community interacts with Offutt AFB in Bellevue and the support the base receives throughout the area.

Thompson is a Southern California native and g 2001 graduate of the Air Force Academy.



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