Captain Thomas Gates - USAF Veteran - Land O'Lakes, FL

Of special importance to the citizens, business community and State of Florida has been his work on behalf of service men and women from the Tampa Bay area and throughout Florida making the transition from military life to civilian life. He was personally instrumental in establishing and funding the programs and facilities that have resulted in the University of South Florida being named by the Military Times as the best school for Veterans. Seeing even greater need on a more personal level, he has expanded his involvement in work on behalf of Veterans in crisis, especially those affected by PTSD/TBI.

An admirer writes: “It was with more than passing interest that I read a 2014 newspaper article about the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame and the class of inductees being honored. Like many Americans, I have often felt that those who served in uniform have not received the thanks and support due to them in return for their service. Because of that, the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame is doubly important. Not only does it recognize the service of exemplary veterans but also, it honors those who made significant contributions to Florida and their home communities, including those who have made it their life’s work to ensure that their brothers and sisters in arms are not forgotten by those whom they have served. It occurred to me that I know such a veteran. I am referring to Tom Gates, whose service and accomplishments are detailed herein. Just as Tom believes that no man should be left behind when serving his country, he has shown by his actions that no veteran should ever be left behind in life. By his example, he has inspired others including his son, Colonel the Bryan Gates, a Wing Commander in the USAF, to continue his tradition of service.”

He continues to make significant contributions to the State of Florida in public service, business and civic endeavors. He has spent an exemplary life, most of it in service to his country. In his business dealings, he has conducted himself with honor and integrity bringing credit to the values he developed during his military and public service. He has given of his assets and time in pursuit of Veteran’s issues benefitting not just one group or agency in Florida but numerous such agencies. He has persuaded many others to do the same making tireless efforts to educate Florida citizens, businesses and institutions so that they are willing and enthusiastic supporters of Veteran’s causes. He has been instrumental in making the issues important to Veterans at USF also important to the faculty, administration and fellow students. He has asked nothing in return but that does not mean that his efforts should be unrecognized.

Education and Training Accomplishments:

Tom graduated from Choctawhatchee High School in Shalimar, Florida. While in High School, he obtained the rank of Eagle Scout and was inducted into die Order of the Arrow, serving in a leadership role in the Boy Scouts for more than 14 years. He is a 1966 Graduate of the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa, Florida. During his service in the Air Force, he completed the Undergraduate Navigator/Bombardicr and Pilot Training Courses. Air Crew Familiarization Course, the USAF Operational Training Course, the USAFE Tactical Employment School, the Combat Operations Course and the Forward Air Controller (FAC) Course. He was dual rated as a Weapons System Officcr-Navigator Pilot. He is a veteran of two combat tours during the Vietnam War. He holds a Private Airplane Pilot Certificate with an instrument certification. His occupation related training continued during his service in the FBI. Details of that training are confidential.

Professional and Employment History:

Following graduation from USF. Tom entered the United Stales Air Force. When he separated from active duty in 1975. he was a Regular Officer, Flight Commander of an F-4 Fighter Squadron, having achieved the rank of Permanent Captain. He received an Honorary Retirement from the USAF Reserves in 1986. Following his military service, he spent one year with Investors Diversified Services before joining the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). As a Special Agent, his accomplishments include: Project Manager in charge of the first Joint Drug Intelligence Group: service as a member of the development team lor the establishment of the National Drug Intelligence Center: management of several major investigations involving organized crime, outlaw motorcycle
gangs, narcotic cartels, and narco-terrorism groups. His work is referenced in 12 published books, four major magazine articles and numerous newspaper and national television reports, lie participated in electronic surveillances and undercover operations involving organized crime, narcotic cartels and outlaw motorcycle gangs. He received numerous commendations for his actions and accomplishments. After retiring from the FBI, he spent 15 years with Orion Scientific Systems/SRA International, Inc. He was Director of Business Development for Public Safety at this firm working in the areas of national security, civil government and global health. Since 2011, his firm, Gates and Associates, LLC, has offered security consulting services to businesses, agencies and individuals.

Advocacy on Behalf of Veterans:

In conjunction with the PGA tour, Tom was instrumental in founding the Foundation for Birdies for the Brave, Tampa Bay. He served as Chairman for several years, growing the event into one of the highest profile and most successful Veterans benefit events in Tampa Bay. During his tenure as Chairman, the Event made contributions totaling nearly $3,000,000. of which a portion was dedicated to local veteran support groups in the Tampa Bay area including: The University of South Florida (USF) Foundation supporting veterans affairs; Quantum Leap Farm, Equine Therapies, a veterans support foundation and Operation Helping Hand (Haley VA Hospital). Included in the Birdies for the Brave Veterans Support Groups on a national level are: Homes for our Troops; Special Operations Warrior Foundation; Navy SEAL Foundation; Operation Homefront; Military Warriors Support Foundation; Green Beret Foundation; United Through Reading; K9’s for Warriors: Feherty’s Troops First Foundation; Operation Shower and Disabled Sports USA.

He is currently Chairman Emeritus of Birdies for the Brave, Tampa Bay; a former member of the Board of Directors of Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge (CWVC); former Executive Director of Reveille Summit a major fundraiser for CWVC; member and Secretary of the board of ART International (Accelerated Resolution Training and Research); Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Veterans Alternative Foundation: a member of the Board of Directors of Copperhead Charities and is a VFW and an American Legion Life Member.

Since 2015, Tom has organized annual retreats for veterans dealing with PTSD/TBI that include yoga and ART therapy coupled with horseback riding and golf. Attendees are special operators with severe PTSD. All participants have said the experience has been extremely “healing”, The related fund raising golf event raised $290,000 for PSTD/TBI research.

He has also made time to counsel and advise a charity supporting homeless women veterans located in the Tampa Bay Area.
Of special significance is Tom’s membership and work with the Veterans Affairs Advisory Board and the Student Affairs Advisory Board at USF. Tom aggressively campaigned for institutional and community support for veterans programs al USF. He is part of the veterans mentoring program at USF. Because of his efforts and the work of many others supporting the USF veteran’s programs, the MILITARY TIMES has ranked the University number 1 in the United States offering programs and assistance to Veterans, many of whom are recently separated following service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tom was instrumental in the conception and promotion of the USF Center for Veteran and Military Transition which included a new $30 million facility that will dramatically alter the way veterans transition from the military into meaningful civilian employment. Tom solicited the gift of architectural renderings to kick off the project and has become the principal volunteer fund raiser.
He also has been designated a permanent member of the Pat Tillman Scholarship Selection Committee at USF, a USF recipient of which was recently profiled in the national news media bringing considerable attention to this important program, Torn has also been featured twice in USF magazines for his philanthropic endeavors and work with veterans on the USF campus.

Civic Activities and Contributions:

Tom’s work with charities supporting Veteran and Law Enforcement causes has made him a well recognized figure in the community. His counsel is sought by groups seeking to raise funds for other activities such as student sports and scholarships. His efforts have been especially helpful in bringing the business community into the effort to support our veterans. Tom is an associate member of the international Association of Chiefs of Police, a member of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI. the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association: National Defense Industrial Association; and the Global SOF Foundation. He has been inducted into the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels and is active with the Alumni Chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity. Tom has been selected to speak on several occasions about the principles of honor and service to members and prospective members of the Sigma Nu Chapter at USF. Tom’s involvement with charitable and service organizations has been a life-long pursuit. He is currently or has been a member of numerous community based organizations, often serving in a leadership capacity. They include: The Boy Scouts of America (Scout Leader), Birdies for the Brave (Chairman). Combat Wounded Veterans Challenge. Copperhead Charities, Veterans Alternative (Dircctor/Chairman, 2017), ART International Therapy, Training and Research (Advisory- Board), USF Athletics (Committee Member), Center for Veteran and Military Transition (Fund Raising Committee), Tillman Scholarship Committee (Permanent Member).

Awards and Honors:

United States Air Force Awards: During his active duty service he was awarded: Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster. Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters,  Commendation Medal. Presidential Unit Citation with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, Combat Readiness Medal, Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Bronze Palm, National Defense Service Medal. Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Medal and the Air Force Longevity Service Award with one Oak Leaf Cluster.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Awards: 

During his career with the FBI, Torn received letters of commendation from the Director of the FBI on several major cases. More specifically: A major organized crime case involving several notable personalities in the movie industry; An outlaw motorcycle national case: A major narcotics case involving cartels in Mexico: Being part of a task force solving a major kidnapping in Southern California. A commendation letter from U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer for service rendered while in the FBI. A commendation letter from former President William Clinton for service rendered while in the FBI.

Corporate Awards: 

Tom received numerous awards and commendations for his service in the private sector from his company and from numerous State agencies that he supported in his endeavors. A sampling of those awards include a letter of commendation along with a certificate for being a project manager in the development of a new software product allowing tracking and identifying gang members throughout the United Slates. Tom has received recognition by letter from the FBI National Academy Associates for his support of their program as well as a certificate and plaque from the International Association of Chiefs of Police tor his support of their programs. He has received recognition and letters of commendation from several state police agencies for his work with the GangNet system. Tom Gates has received the Presidents’ Award from the President of the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame Society for his hard work and contributions to the Board of Directors and his leadership with the Veterans’ Scholarship Project.

Community Awards: 

Tom has received commendations and letters of recognition from several of the community organizations he has served. This year, Torn has been nominated for the Donald A. Gifford Service Award presented annually by the University of South Florida Alumni Association. (Awarded to one of the 300,000 alumni of the University for sendee to the community and the USF system) The final selection will not be announced until after the deadline but the nomination is an honor in itself.

“Without Tom’s investment in our program, I honestly believe that USF would not be the number one school in the country for veterans. There is no one in our community more committed to serving those who served. His love and passion for our young student veterans and this incredible university is absolutely inspiring. Tom is a proud alumnus who will continue to give back as long as he has a breath in his body.”

Lawrence A. Braue, Ed.D.,
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.) Director, Office of Veteran Success, USF

“Captain Tom Gates is a leader who embodies what it means to be a true servant­ leader. Captain Gates has continued to lead by demonstrating the importance of helping others, especially those members of the armed forces and veterans who need our help the most. I also know that Captain Gates still has much to offer and he will continue to inspire others to give of their time, talent and treasure. Captain Gates is highly deserving of this prestigious honor and should you select him, I know he will make you proud.”

Michael Griffin
Chair, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce

“Mr. Tom Gates has provided valuable support to Special Operations Forces wounded, ill and injured as well as the military community at large. His golf retreats in Ireland and other golf initiatives have provided a valuable, unique and lasting impact on our warriors who have attended. His persistent efforts in raising awareness of Veteran issues within the Tampa Bay Community and beyond shows his tenacity and dedication to those who have given so much service to our country. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for his current initiatives and continuing to work with him in his future endeavors.”

Cary C Harbaugh, Colonel,
U.S. Army Director, USSOCOM Warrior Care Program

“I have known Tom Gates for over 20 years through his work on Veterans’ issues and his early involvement with the PGA Tours ‘Birdies for the Brave’. More recently, I joined his efforts with the Special Operations Command Care Coalition to create the Waterville Retreat. This is a truly unique gathering at the Waterville Golf Links, County Kerry Ireland. Teaching the game of golf is the center of the retreat, along with secondary sports, fly fishing, horseback riding and the climbing of Skolligs Rock, an 800 foot high promontory that rises from the Atlantic. This year will be the third retreat and we will be joined by Care Coalition leadership to observe the magic of the retreat. Thanks Tom Gates for your efforts and success with Veterans’ programs.”

James J. Connolly
Director, Waterville Golf Links

“Tom Gates has a storied career grounded in selfless service to our nation. He is no longer a fighter pilot or an agent in the FBI staking out high valued targets, yet he still fights with a passion that demonstrates the definition of service before self. Tom’s support of benevolent organizations is extraordinary. His involvement as a board member for ART International and the Veterans Alternative is invaluable as is the wisdom he shares and with the many young warriors and leaders returning from the battlefield and the people working with him. His loyalty and duty to his brothers and sisters who protect our nation’s better interests are never ending. Tom never stops giving of himself and his legacy is well defined; I am truly honored to know Tom Gates.”
Chris Sullivan

Executive Director for Chris T. Sullivan
Foundation and Vice-Chairman of ART International

“On behalf of the PGA TOUR and Birdies for the Brave, I would highly endorse Tom Gates’ admittance into the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame. His extraordinary service to our country as a former U.S. Air Force Captain and then FBI Special Agent is matched only by his passion for giving back and paying it forward to veterans and military families. Tom’s unparalleled leadership and stewardship as chairman of the Birdies for the Brave fundraising event at TPC Tampa Bay not only grew the event exponentially , but was also responsible for significantly increasing donations to military non-profit organizations that provide critical programs and services for military veterans, wounded heroes and Gold Star Families. Tom’s tireless efforts, unwavering patriotism, ability to build relationships and engage business and community’ leaders throughout Tampa Bay in programs that support veterans, and selfless devotion to supporting veterans both in Florida and throughout the United States are second to none.”

Justin Johns
PGA Tour, Birdies for the Brave

“Captain Gates is an exemplary American and his service and sacrifice during his career in the USAF and FBI are indicative of his dedication to the causes he believes in. He is a fellow USF Bull, fellow Sigma Nu Fraternity brother, and a personal friend. Tom’s loyalty is remarkable. Once he is “on mission’’ he doesn’t let up. His efforts in the very successful Birdies for the Brave Golf tournaments, USF Center for Veterans and Military Transition, Quantum Leap Equine Farm and his lifelong commitment to the ideals of honor and duty as an Eagle Scout are examples of a life lived in service to his Country and his fellow man. Tom never says no to a friend or a pursuit he believes in. He is a personal example to us all and I am proud to call him my friend. I hope Captain Gates does indeed earn the deserved honor of induction into the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame.”

Hon. Shawn Harrison
Florida State House of Representatives, District 63