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Operation Homefront - Leadership

Our all-volunteer force today constitutes our collective will as a nation and we’re honored to serve these patriots and the families who serve by their side.
John I. Pray, Jr., President & CEO, Brig Gen, USAF (Ret.)

Chosen to lead Operation Homefront following a nationwide search in May 2015, John previously served nearly six years with the United Service Organizations (USO) in a broad range of executive capacities, most recently as the executive vice president, Operations, Programs, & Entertainment. A 27-year veteran of the Air Force, he retired in 2007 to accept a position as the executive secretary of the National Security Council, where he was responsible for managing policy formulation in support of the president of the United States and other senior White House decision makers. When his government service ended in early 2009, he became the executive vice president for SPEC Innovations, where he helped the systems engineering company expand into new areas. He joined the USO later that year and has led a broad range of initiatives in operations, marketing, communications, information technology, entertainment and strategy, to ensure the USO met its commitments to service members and their families and the donors that support them. John holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy and Master’s degrees from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the School of Advanced Airpower Studies and the Air War College. He has also completed senior executive programs at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School and Wharton.

For all those who selflessly serve to defend and protect our way of life, it’s our honor to serve those who make such service possible: the military family.
Robert D. Thomas, COO, Brig Gen, USAF (Ret.)

Bob joined the Operation Homefront executive team in August 2015 following a nearly 31-year career of distinguished service in the Air Force. In his final command assignment, he led the Jeanne M. Holm Center for Office Accessions and Citizen Development, where he was responsible for directing the education and training programs that produce more than 81 percent of the officer cadre of the Air Force. In addition to being an experienced combat pilot, Bob held staff assignments at Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Joint Special Operations Command, the United Nations and the Air Staff. He has flown combat/combat support missions or deployed with ground-based special operations units in Panama and Somalia, as well as Operations Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Bob holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy and Master’s degrees from the University of Southern California and the National Defense University.

Thanks to our generous donors, we are able to help those who protect our way of life in their time of need.
Margi Kirst, Chief Development Officer

Margi oversees a development and marketing/public relations team that is responsible for creating vibrant engagement and connection between generous donors and the military families supported by Operation Homefront. Margi has 30 years’ experience in marketing and communications for global private and nonprofit organizations and joined Operation Homefront in June 2015. She previously served as vice president of Marketing at the United Service Organizations (USO), and has also directed fundraising, marketing and communications initiatives for the Autism Society of America, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), Socimer International and Price Waterhouse. Margi has a Master of Arts from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Arts from Trinity College in Washington, D.C.  She is an extremely proud military family member, as the wife of a former U.S. Army officer, the daughter of dual-service U.S. Navy parents, and the sister of two Army reservists.

I feel privileged to have the honor of supporting and working alongside an extraordinary team of employees and volunteers at Operation Homefront as together, we reach toward our shared vision of serving America’s military families.
Karen Smithhart, VP of Human Resources & General Services

Karen began her career with Operation Homefront in 2008 serving as Director of Operations for Texas. She later moved to the national headquarters in San Antonio leading field office transitions and programs, volunteer management, and staff training which evolved into her current role as Vice President of Human Resources and General Services. Karen has over 28 years in the nonprofit sector with the Girls Scouts, American Red Cross and Operation Homefront. She has experience in human resources, branch operations oversight, fund development, marketing and volunteer management. In her time with the Red Cross, Karen helped create a nationally recognized Youth Volunteer Program and, later, during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, she expertly stood up a Volunteer Reception and Training Center in San Antonio, responsible for managing and assigning over 12,000 volunteers. These volunteers facilitated the work of five mega-shelters housing over 35,000 evacuees, 24 hours a day. She later developed protocols for “Managing Large Numbers of Spontaneous Volunteers.” Karen‘s family has a rich history of military service. Her late father served in the Army, her late father-in-law served in the Navy, her husband was in the Air Force and her son is currently in his 19th year with the U.S. Coast Guard. Karen is a proud wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother.

It is heartwarming to work with so many wonderful organizations who are committed to serving our military and veteran families, and who continue to support Operation Homefront’s mission with their generosity.”
Jill Eskin-Smith, VP of Corporate & Foundation Partnerships

Jill Eskin-Smith joined Operation Homefront in 2016 and oversees the acquisition and stewardship of corporate and foundation partnerships across the country. Jill has 25 years of experience in sales, marketing and account management with nationally recognized news media organizations. Prior to joining Operation Homefront, she spent 18 years at USA TODAY where as Director of Education Resources she was responsible for cultivating strategic, revenue generating partnerships with corporations, foundations and associations and oversaw the creation of curriculum materials provided to over 30,000 middle and high school classrooms. She also served as the Director of National Sales Services, where she managed marketing initiatives for Retail, Travel and Education sales channels. Jill formerly held positions at U.S. News & World Report, PBS and Discovery Communications and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

I am very proud of how Operation Homefront's refreshed visual identity highlights the great military families we serve and the many ways we support them. Having a great and reliable brand will help us find the right partners to support our important mission: to build strong, stable, and secure military families.
Jay Sternberg, VP of Marketing

Jay leads Operation Homefront’s integrated marketing campaigns, cause marketing initiatives, digital and social network strategy, branding and creative services projects, and marketing research. He joined Operation Homefront in October 2015 as Senior Director of Marketing before being promoted to Vice President of Marketing in January 2017. His team develops and executes marketing partnerships for the organization, provides creative and strategic direction for the organization’s events and programs, and works collaboratively with the communications, programs and development teams to expand brand awareness opportunities. Over his 20+ year marketing career, Jay has held several critical roles, including Director of Brand and Creative Services at the United Service Organizations (USO), Marketing Manager for Source America (AbilityOne), Senior Manager of Worldwide Marketing Operations at Blackboard and Vice President of Marketing for a start-up magazine (re:D) in Dallas, TX. Jay earned his M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and received his B.A. in History from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. His passion for supporting the military comes from his father serving as an Army Reservist during the Korean War, his grandfather serving during World War II and his great uncle serving as a Navy pilot. Jay and his wife, Stacey, have two boys and live in Bethesda, Maryland.

As a veteran, each day of my life I strive to be a teammate that came to serve and not be served. I’m truly proud to join a team that provides critical financial assistance, (permanent and transitional) housing and support services to military and veteran families – these service members have already sacrificed so very much of their lives for each of us.
Bruce Alexander, VP of Communications

Bruce Alexander joined Operation Homefront in January 2018 and leads all communications and external outreach efforts for Operation Homefront. His team captures, curates and promotes the many stories that show just how Operation Homefront helps build strong, stable, and secure military families. Bruce, a retired Air Force officer and a graduate of the Harvard University Senior Fellows Program, is an accomplished, award-winning communications professional who most recently served as Director of Communications for the Food & Nutrition Service at the US Department of Agriculture. In this key capacity, he was a member of the National Board of Directors for the Combined Federal Campaign. As the former Director of Public Affairs at Andrews Air Force Base and Services Squadron Commander at Charleston Air Force Base, Bruce shares Operation Homefront's passion to give military families the opportunity to thrive, not simply struggle to get by, in the communities they have worked so hard to protect.