Major General Thomas E. Kunkel is the Commander of the NATO Airborne Early Warning & Control Force in Geilenkirchen, Germany. He leads an international military and civilian staff, representing 17 NATO nations which provide an airborne early warning, command and control and battle management capability in support of NATO commanders.
Prior to this assignment, Maj. Gen. Kunkel was the Deputy Director for Operations, Operations Team Five, National Joint Operations and Intelligence Center. There, he led a Joint Staff team conducting worldwide monitoring, crisis action, strategic nuclear and current operational watch functions.
Maj. Gen. Kunkel entered the Air Force in 1994, when he graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington. He then moved to Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma where he was a student pilot in the Undergraduate Pilot Training program. Following initial pilot training, Maj. Gen. Kunkel moved to Fort Rucker Alabama where he was a Distinguished Graduate of Undergraduate Helicopter Training.
Maj. Gen. Kunkel then had operational assignments which took him from Hurlburt Field, Florida, to Keflavik Iceland, and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. Throughout that time, Maj Gen Kunkel served as an Executive Officer, Flight Commander, Instructor Pilot and Weapons Officer. After completing Intermediate Developmental Education at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, he served as the Program Element Monitor for USAF Rescue and Rotary Wing on the Air Force Staff. From 2008 to 2011, he served as the Operations Officer of the 55th Rescue Squadron, and Commander of the 41st Rescue Squadron.
Maj. Gen. Kunkel went back to school in 2011, where he attended the Eisenhower School in Washington DC for his Senior Developmental Education. After graduation, he deployed to Al Udeid Air Base where he commanded the 609th Air and Space Operations Center. After a successful deployment, he took command of the 23rd Wing, Moody Air Force Base, Ga.
He commanded the Wing for two years, before returning to the Washington DC area in 2017. From 2017 to 2019, Maj Gen Kunkel was the Chief, Air Force Legislative Liaison to the US House of Representatives. From there, he moved over to the Joint Staff for his last posting, prior to assuming command of the Force here at Geilenkirchen.
Maj. Gen. Kunkel is a Command Pilot with over two thousand hours in both fixed and rotary wing aircraft.
He has deployed multiple times, and has supported combat operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.