Red carpets and combat boots

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Josephine Pepin
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
When most people think of military members, the idea of glamorous dresses and costumes, performing under bright lights on center stage, glossy lips, perfect hair and pristine makeup usually does not come to mind.

Airman 1st Class Jahnika Thomas, a Force Management Technician from the 28th Force Support Squadron, is proof of the diverse range of activities our Airmen participate in and excel in at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.

Thomas is currently competing at the national level for the Miss USA Ambassador Pageant title in Orlando, Florida, until July 29, 2023.

The USA Ambassador Pageant is a charity driven organization that encourages its queens, contestants, and families to serve as ambassadors in their communities and hosts a pageant circuit for contestants to win titles and cash prizes every year.

One of the categories Thomas is competing in, The People’s Choice Award, could win her a cash prize of $500, which she would use to help the Military Personnel Flight enhance a morale break room for the squadron and promote more camaraderie, relaxation, and recreation in her workplace.

For this pageant, Thomas worked with two of her coworkers who helped coach her and assisted with the photography and managing needed to run in a pageant. Senior Airman Miranda Simon, a force management technician from the 28th Force Support Squadron, and Airman 1st Class Marious Freeman, a relocations technician from the 28th Force Support Squadron are both cheerleaders, and Simon has experience in coaching cheerleading that translated to the pageantry space.

“Simon is a cheerleading coach and I desperately needed a coach for modeling because it's been a while since I've done pageants,” Thomas admitted. “She watched a couple of videos and ever since then we've been practicing. So she's officially now my coach and my manager.”

Pageantry is nothing new to Thomas, as she has been competing since she was a child living on her home island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She describes her first pageant being in elementary school.

“I was nervous,” Thomas reflected. “But from then on, I continued on doing more pageants because the one person who was supporting me was my stepdad. I didn't win my first pageant, but he came up on stage to congratulate me even though he had stage fright.”

Regardless of the outcome of the pageant, Thomas plans to visit her home island later this year.

“I want to visit my alma mater and all my people who supported me through a couple volunteer events, parades and just given back to my island,” said Thomas. “I still keep up with helping out the community. My main goal is to give back to the people in my community.”

One of those people she wants to give back to is her late stepfather. He was one of her biggest supporters growing up and competing in pageants.

“Right now this pageant is a paid tribute to him,” said Thomas. “He recently passed away.”

If she wins the national USA Ambassador Pageant title, she will qualify to compete for the world title. However, Thomas has dreams beyond the pageant circuit.

“Right now I just want to focus on school and get my bachelor's in psychology,” said Thomas.

To support our fellow Raider, you can follow her pageant journey on in the Miss category. Her pageant runs from July 23-29, 2023.