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The Trial Must Go On: an NCO's Dedication

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Keifer Thomas, a confinement NCO from the 31st Security Forces Squadron, poses for a photo at Aviano Air Base, Dec. 19, 2019.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Keifer Thomas, a confinement NCO from the 31st Security Forces Squadron, poses for a photo at Aviano Air Base, Dec. 19, 2019.

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy --

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Keifer Thomas, a confinement NCO from the 31st Security Forces Squadron, regularly escorts defendants from Aviano Air Base to Sembach Kaserne, a base in Germany, for pre-trial confinement. Occasionally, however, confinement NCOs are asked to escort defendants much farther- in this instance, Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado.

 

“It was my intent that he pick up the individual from Germany, where he was in pre-trial confinement, escort him to F.E. Warren AFB for confinement and then return home,” said Lt. Col. Jesse A. Goens, 31st Security Forces commander. 

 

            However the 31st Fighter Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate needed additional assistance and asked Thomas to stay longer to help during the trial. Thomas was nearly ready to leave the U.S. to fly back to Italy before he received the call with his commander’s approval.

 

            With his focus now fully on the trial, Thomas was able to tackle the first problem: finding the defendant a place to stay. Bad weather threatened the two hour drive from F.E. Warren AFB to Buckley AFB and forced Thomas to find a closer location. Should he fail, the court martial would be further delayed.

 

Thomas didn’t give up. He reached out to the local sheriff’s office with hopes of housing the defendant at their location but yet again he faced a problem.

 

Buckley AFB previously had an agreement with the sheriff’s office where they allowed defendants to stay in their facility while on trial. 

 

“They had some MOAs, memorandums of agreements, but due to some hiccups at Buckley they weren’t in effect,” said Thomas. 

 

Through his dedication to his duty, and his first Security Forces’ General Order, an MOA was reactivated and the defendant was allowed to stay in confinement at the local sheriff’s office. 

 

“If Staff Sgt. Thomas had not done what he’d done, it is likely that the court martial would have been further delayed, and potentially moved back to Aviano,” said Goens. “Both of which would have caused significant inconvenience for all parties and unnecessary emotional and psychological strain on the victim and the victim’s family.”

 

Thomas went above and beyond to ensure that the trial could continue. Whether it was working long days, braving through terrible weather, or working with the local sheriff’s office, he was committed. 

 

Due to his disciplined initiative the court martial was able to continue and the defendant received his sentencing.

 

“The father in me was happy to see justice,” Thomas said.  “The cop in me thought ‘cool, let's continue, this is just a job.”