SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Staff Sgt. Morris Thomas, occupational safety officer with the 50th Space Wing Safety Office, recently won 2017’s Air Force Space Command Safety Career Professional of the Year award.
The award recognizes an individual in the safety career field for outstanding contributions to the Air Force safety program, and considers factors such as duty performance level above the nominee’s grade, innovations the nominee developed that reduced mishaps, increased program effectiveness or enhanced the career field and participation in safety activities of agencies outside the Air Force.
Lieutenant Col. Scott Hermann, chief of safety with the 50th SW SO, nominated Thomas because of his many accomplishments and passion for the career field.
“I have worked with Thomas for almost a year,” he said. “If I had to characterize him in one word, it would be ‘huge.’ He was previously a high-performing wrestler at the Junior Olympic level and was on the Air Force team.”
Thomas has lead more than 100 unit safety representatives, founding a safety coalition by partnering with Drive Smart Colorado, an organization that aims to keep new drivers safe on the roads and shaped the development of new safety professionals at an Air Force-wide level, in addition to completing three fourths of his bachelor’s degree credits.
“To me, they could have put up no one,” Morris said. “They could have said, ‘we don’t have anyone,’ so for my chief of safety to say ‘I have a guy that I would put up against anyone else.’ It made all of the work I’ve done over time seem like I’m making a difference. The award lets me know the work I’ve been doing has been positive and recognized,” he said. “It gives me the boost that I need motivation-wise to pursue it on the outside.”
Thomas, who separates from the Air Force in March, did not begin his career in safety, having previously served in security forces from February 2008 to August 2012.
“I did like some aspects of it, like firing the heavy weapons, being in the field and the deployments, but I had a different idea when it came to law enforcement,” he said. “I wanted to find a way to keep people safe in a more personable way.”
Thomas retrained into the safety field in 2012, and has loved it ever since.
“You have an ability to speak and talk on a spiritual and personal level,” he said.
Thomas faced challenges understanding the knowledge in multiple career fields, understanding the regulatory guidance and how to enforce laws and rules. However, because of his vested interest in learning all he could about the safety career field, he was able to successfully execute what was asked of him.
“When I first entered the career field, I was overwhelmed,” he said. “But as the time passed, I became a student of my job, and started to take an interest in learning everything I could about rules and regulations, even outside of the Air Force.”
He said he loves getting to meet everyone in the unit and educating them about safety in the workplace.
Hermann acknowledges Thomas’ ability to communicate on a personal level about topics that may not be easy to grasp.
“He (Thomas) has a huge personality and spirit when it comes to safety,” he said. “Thomas is a great communicator and very skilled at building strong relationships.”
Thomas expressed his door is always open to Schriever Airmen, even if only for a short time.
“I’m here to help you,” he added. “I’m always asking myself ‘what can I do better, what can we do better as a unit to mitigate hazards?’ I want to get people to internalize safety, to make it something they do because they want to, as opposed to just doing it because they have to.”
Soon, Thomas, his wife and three children will make the journey to Missouri to be closer to family. However, Thomas has appreciated the privilege of having great leadership and coworkers, and has made a lot of friends and lifelong connections.
“They (Schriever members) go out of their way to learn their job for the people,” Thomas said. “I’ve had the honor and privilege to work with the best and brightest. Before them, I got to stand on the shoulders of giants and see the improvements that were made before and then take some of those improvements and make them better.”
Thomas hopes the 50th’s safety department continues to be successful in the future.
“I’ve met quite a few safety professionals during my time here and they’re some of the best the Air Force has to offer,” he said.
Hermann expressed his gratitude working with Thomas, and will miss him as both a worker and a friend.
“There will be a huge void in the office when he’s gone,” he said. “We will truly miss his enthusiasm, intelligence and humor.”
Although Thomas has not served on various Air Force Bases, he will miss Schriever the most.
“When I think about my career, Schriever is going to pop up first,” he said. “When I think about my time, my first thought is going to be my time at Schriever.”