Brig. Gen. Thomas Palenske is the Assistant Vice Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command. He assists the Vice Commander in planning, coordinating, and executing actions with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the services and other government agencies in the National Capital Region on behalf of the Commander, USSOCOM.
Brig. Gen. Palenske graduated from Friends University and received his commission in 1995. He has spent the majority of his career in special operations aviation assignments. He is a command pilot with more than 3,500 hours in various aircraft, including the UH-1H, UH-60, MH-60G, MH-53J/M, and CV-22B. Brig. Gen. Palenske has deployed extensively in support of combat, humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping and peace-enforcement operations.
1995 Bachelor of Science, Human Resources Management, Friends University, Kan.
2000 Master of Political Science, International Relations, Troy State University, Ala.
2000 Squadron Officer School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
2002 Master of Administrative Science, Organizational Management, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
2002 Intermediate Developmental Education residence credit, Air Force Intern Program, Washington, D.C.
2003 MH-53 Weapons Instructor Course, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
2004 Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
2007 Joint Forces Staff College, Naval Station Norfolk, Norfolk, Va.
2009 Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
2014 Master of Strategic Studies, Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
1. November 1986–December 1986, Recruit, U.S. Army Basic Training, Fort Knox, Ky.
2. December 1986–February 1987, UH-1H Crew Chief student, U.S. Army Advanced Individual Training, Fort Rucker, Ala.
3. February 1987–October 1987, UH-1H Crew Chief, 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation Regiment, Kansas Army National Guard, Topeka, Kan.
4. October 1987–October 1988, Student Pilot, Initial Entry Rotary Wing Course, Fort Rucker, Ala.
5. October 1988–March 1995, UH-1H/UH-60 Standardization Instructor Pilot, 1-108th AVN, Kansas ANG, Topeka, Kan.
6. March 1995–June 1995, Officer Candidate, Officer Training School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
7. June 1995–April 1997, MH-60G Aircraft Commander, 55th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
8. May 1997–June 1998, MH-53J Student Pilot, 551st Special Operations Squadron, Kirtland AFB, N.M.
9. June 1998–June 2000, MH-53J/M Instructor Pilot, 20th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
10. June 2000–April 2002, Air Force Intern, Washington, D.C.
11. April 2002–December 2004, MH-53J/M Weapons Officer/Evaluator, 21st Special Operations Squadron, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, United Kingdom
12. December 2004–November 2005, Aide de Camp to Deputy Commander, United States Central Command, MacDill AFB, Fla.
13. November 2005–April 2008, Deputy Branch Chief Special Activities, USCENTCOM Operations Division, MacDill AFB, Fla.
14. April 2008–July 2009, CV-22B Student Pilot, 71st Special Operations Squadron, Kirtland AFB, N.M.
15. July 2009–May 2011, Director of Operations, 20th Special Operations Squadron, Cannon AFB, N.M.
16. May 2011–May 2013, Commander, 20th Special Operations Squadron, Cannon AFB, N.M.
17. May 2013–June 2014, Student, Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
18. June 2014–December 2014, Deputy Division Chief, Iran Division, J5, Joint Staff, the Pentagon, Arlington, Va.
19. January 2015–June 2016, Vice Wing Commander, 1st Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
20. June 2016–June 2018, Wing Commander, 1st Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
21. June 2018–July 2019, Senior Military Assistant to the Acting Secretary of the Air Force, the Pentagon, Arlington, Va.
22. July 2019–June 2021, Director, Special Warfare, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Arlington, Va.
23. June 2021– June 2022, Deputy Commanding General, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Levant, Baghdad, Iraq
24. June 2022–present, Assistant Vice Commander, Headquarters U.S. Special Operations Command, the Pentagon, Arlington Va.
Rating: command pilot
Flight hours: 3,500
Aircraft flown: TH-55, UH-1H, UH-60, MH-60G, MH-53J/M, MV-22A, CV-22B, U-28A, MC-130H and AC-130U
MAJOR AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross with “V” device
Bronze Star Medal
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters
Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters
EFFECTIVE DATES OF PROMOTION
Second Lieutenant June 23, 1995
First Lieutenant July 1, 1997
Captain July 1, 1999
Major Nov. 1, 2005
Lieutenant Colonel March 1, 2009
Colonel July 1, 2015
Brigadier General July 3, 2020
(Current as of July 2022)