By Jasper Craven Nov. 26, 2018
On Jan. 4, 2014, a blue flag adorned with the image of an eagle was passed from the outgoing commander of the 158th Fighter Wing, Col. David Baczewski, to the new leader of the Vermont Air National Guard, Col. Thomas Jackman.
Hundreds of airmen looked on as Jackman, a veteran of three tours in Iraq, saluted Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, Vermont’s adjutant general. Throughout the ceremony, Jackman, well-built with closely cropped salt-and-pepper hair, stood ramrod straight.
In a Guard video commemorating the event, Jackman said his focus as wing commander would be to improve operational readiness, boost morale and prepare for the basing of the F-35 fighter jet in Burlington.
Still, Jackman signaled to the airmen there would be time for fun, too. “Plan on playing hard as well as working hard,” he said in the video.
In more than three decades as a pilot for the 158th Fighter Wing, the new wing commander had earned intense loyalty from the Vermont airmen.
But just a year after taking command, he fell from grace and lost his coveted leadership position. Jackman was ushered out of the organization after he took an F-16 flight to Washington, D.C., for a work trip that doubled as a romantic rendezvous with a female Army colonel who worked at the Pentagon, according to three former Guard members with knowledge of the incident. They spoke with VTDigger on the condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal.
In December 2014 and January 2015, Jackman swapped flirtatious emails during work with the woman, which indicated that they had met up before. The trip that sealed Jackman’s fate was on Jan. 27, 2015. Even as a winter storm barreled toward Burlington that day, Jackman pushed ahead with plans for a get-together with the woman in the nation’s capital.
VTDigger is not identifying the woman involved because it could not be determined whether she violated any military regulations. She did not reply to a request for comment.
For weeks, the two officers had shared gushy messages. They corresponded frequently over email, and also spoke on the phone. The woman sent a series of photos of herself to Jackman and he replied, “you look beautiful” and “(I) can’t help but notice every part of you.” After the woman received an email from Jackman on Jan. 7, she wrote, “Fun seeing your name pop up in the inbox. Always makes me smile. (and tingle…).”