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Councilman who’s also a Navy reservist says he’ll deploy to Afghanistan for 6 months

Councilman Robert Thoms, a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves, has been involuntarily recalled to active duty and will deploy to Kabul, Afghanistan for six months.
Councilman Robert Thoms, a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves, has been involuntarily recalled to active duty and will deploy to Kabul, Afghanistan for six months. Courtesy - handout

Tacoma City Councilman Robert Thoms will be deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan for six months starting this spring as part of his U.S. Navy Reserves duties.

A commander in Navy public affairs, Thoms said he was involuntarily recalled to active duty. He last was recalled to active duty in 2011 before he became a councilman. Thoms has been in the military for 25 years and is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War. This will be his first deployment to Afghanistan.

While he’s honored and humbled to serve, “I’d much rather be with my family,” Thoms said in an interview.

“There is no shortage of things I’m working on that I want to get done, so my hope is with the help of my colleagues and my three at-large council members, including the mayor … some of the things we’ve put into play will continue to be impressed upon, and then I’ll jump right in as soon as I get back,” he said.

Because he only will be deployed for six months, Thoms said the council won’t seek a replacement to represent District 2, which includes Northeast Tacoma, the Tideflats, downtown and the Stadium District. In a news release, he said at-large council members Lillian Hunter and Conor McCarthy have said they’ll keep close watch on issues affecting Thoms’ district.

He said he’ll resume his seat when he returns.

“I plan to stay engaged to a degree. I will still see emails and participate to the degree that I can that way,” Thoms said.

Thoms said he is expected to depart from Tacoma in early March. He’ll go through about three weeks of training, then travel to Afghanistan in early April, he said. He will be in Kabul supporting the Resolute Support Mission as part of the ongoing war on terror and the fight against ISIS.

Thoms pointed out that other city employees have been deployed for military service fairly recently. Mike Slevin, who is now the city’s Environmental Services director, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 for more than a year. At that time, he was Tacoma’s assistant public works director.

“We’ve had several people within our police department and other emergency responders who go,” Thoms said. “I was explaining it to my kids, Tacoma, Pierce County and Washington in general has a greater per capita of service members because of Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the Navy base.

“People being deployed, it’s not foreign to people in our community. But once you get called, it takes time to get all your affairs in order and make sure your family is taken care of.”

Mayor Victoria Woodards said in a statement she’s proud of Thoms’ service.

“His military career and experience continue to be a tremendous asset to our community,” said Woodards, an Army veteran.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud

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