SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, – As a young woman with dreams to serve and fly, Col. Andrea Themely knew the Air Force would take her to tremendous heights.
Themely began her career as a distinguished graduate from the Air Force Academy in 1995 and attended flying training directly afterward.
“I was lucky enough to get my first choice of aircraft – F-15Cs,” Themely said. “I’ve been blessed and lucky every place I’ve been stationed.”
In 2009, Themely said she was blessed enough to be stationed at Sheppard AFB for the first time as a squadron commander.
Following her first duty at Sheppard, she attended the National War College and went on to serve as a member of the analysis branch at the Pentagon.
In 2017, Themely made her way back to Sheppard, this time as commander of the 80th Flying Training Wing, home of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program.
“It was nice to see so many familiar faces again,” Themely said.
However, the roles and responsibilities of a squadron commander and a wing commander are significantly different.
“Before, I had only dealt with the flying operations of one unit,” Themely said. “Now, I oversee the operations and maintenance of all our aircraft and almost 1,500 personnel. It’s not the same level of individual detail with people, but the scope of operations certainly is bigger.”
Themely, Vice Commander Col. Lendy Renegar and Command Chief Master Sgt. Marc Schoellkopf have had three main objectives in her year as wing commander. The first was to improve the Air Force fighter pilot shortfall through increasing pilot production and retaining the talent already being used.
“We do our part to continue to increase production here for the U.S. Air Force as well as for all of our partner nations,” Themely said. “All the ENJJPT nations are feeling the strain, too.”
The second was to combat wind farm encroachment, since flying operations are so greatly impacted by them. Through a strong partnership with the local community, the Sheppard Military Affairs Committee and personnel from the 80th FTW and the 82nd TRW, this goal was accomplished when a project to create more windfarms near Sheppard was pulled just a few weeks ago.
The last objective was to improve training through technological advancements, such as a T-X trainer, which will be awarded this summer.
“We are really hopeful that the T-X trainer will replace our T-38’s here as soon as possible,” Themely said.
Until that arrives, pilots will be trained through technological advancements such as virtual reality.
Although all of these accomplishments are things to be proud of, Themely said she has a prouder moment every six weeks at ENJJPT graduations.
“It’s a culminating event that is such a special occasion,” Themely said. “All of these students have made it through 55 weeks in a truly grueling program and received their silver wings. It’s not just a testament to their hard work and determination, it’s also a testament to the entire wing’s dedication and commitment. The jobs that they do day in and day out are reflected in that evening.”
All of these moments have been highlights of her career, however, as her time in the Air Force comes to a close Themely said she is looking forward to the next chapter in her life. Her retirement is active October 1, 2018.
Themely said she has plans to move to Washington D.C. with her two sons Jake and Josh to be closer to family and to focus on being a more present mother.