Rear Adm. Karl O. Thomas is a native of Northern Virginia. He received his commission through Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1986 with a degree in management systems. He earned a Master of Science in Information Technology from Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
Following initial training in the airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft, E-2C Hawkeye, Thomas served in the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 114 where he made two deployments onboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), as well as two counter-narcotic detachments to Panama. Thomas also served as navigator onboard USS New Orleans (LPH 11) and USS Essex (LHD 2). He served an aviation department head tour with VAW-117, and once again deployed on the Carl Vinson in 1999 participating in Operation Desert Fox.
Thomas was executive officer and commanding officer of VAW-117 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After graduating from nuclear power school, Thomas served as executive officer of both USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and USS George Washington (CVN 73), delivering the first permanently forward deployed nuclear aircraft carrier to Japan. In 2009, he commanded the U.S. 6th Fleet Command Ship, USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), and completed numerous joint exercises in the Mediterranean, North Atlantic and Baltic Sea. He assumed command of USS Abraham Lincoln from September of 2012 to August 2014 for refueling complex overhaul (RCOH). He reported to Carl Vinson as the commanding officer in September 2014 where he completed his fourth deployment on the Carl Vinson in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Shore duty assignments include VAW-110 as a fleet replacement instructor; flag aide for both Commander, Fighter Airborne Early Warning Wing Pacific and director of Naval Reactors. He served in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (OUSD AT&L) (Unmanned Warfare) and coordinated the OUSD AT&L Unmanned Air Systems Task Force. He served as the executive assistant to the Director, Air Warfare (N98), and most recently served as director, 21st Century Sailor Office (N17).
Thomas assumed the duties of Commander, Task Force SEVEN ZERO/Commander, Carrier Strike Group FIVE on 18 July 2018.