Chatsworth, California

Los Angeles, CA, July 30, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Operation Gratitude is pleased to announce that Major General James C. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (ret.), a highly accomplished senior executive with extensive leadership experience in strategic planning, operations, logistics, talent management, and human resilience, has been named as the organization's Chief Executive Officer.

In his role as CEO, effective August 23, 2021, Major General Johnson will oversee the day-to-day operations of the organization and work closely with the Board to develop and implement a strategic plan to provide opportunities for all Americans to express their appreciation to those who serve, and to expand volunteerism nationwide.

Major General Johnson is currently serving in the Department of Defense as a Highly Qualified Expert for the Secretary of Defense-chartered Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military. James is also an independent consultant, providing services based on his portfolio of experiences, and serves on the Board of Directors for The Flag and General Officer Network, a non-profit veteran corporation of admirals and general officers, dedicated to personal and professional growth and service to the nation.

Previously, James served over 30 years in the United States military with assignments at the squadron, wing, major command, headquarters Air Force, and joint command levels. During his military service, he served, among many other appointments, as the Pope Air Force Base Commander, as the AFRICOM Director for Logistics and as Commander of the Air Force Recruiting Service, charged with the annual recruitment of 28,000 airmen. Subsequently, he established the Directorate for Integrated Human Resilience and stood-up Task Force True North to ensure the physical and emotional well-being of 600,000 Airmen, while also improving their ability to detect, navigate and adapt to stress.

Major General Johnson’s awards and decorations include the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, and Joint Meritorious Unit Award. 

Johnson joins Operation Gratitude with a passion to promote the organization’s core mission of “Saying Thank You” to all who serve our nation. “I am truly inspired by Operation Gratitude and humbly appreciate the Board’s confidence and desire for me to lead this wonderful organization as the CEO,” said Maj Gen Johnson. “I look forward to standing side by side with our volunteers, donors, and staff to ensure all Americans have an opportunity to say ‘Thank You’ to those who have signed a contract with America to go wherever we need them to go and pay whatever price is necessary to ensure our security, safety, and way of life.” 

Carolyn Blashek, the founder and former CEO of Operation Gratitude, welcomed the appointment of Johnson, noting his extraordinary career of service, his vast experience in areas of particular value to the organization and his alignment of purpose with her motivation to create the non-profit 18 years ago. “James is an exceptional leader who will inspire millions of Americans to express their patriotic gratitude in a hands-on way, and lead our national movement to serve those who serve. I look forward to working with him to expand our reach into every community in the country.” 

Operation Gratitude also expresses its deep gratitude and warm wishes to retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Schmiegel, who assumed the leadership of the organization as CEO upon Blashek’s retirement in December 2017. Schmiegel was instrumental in expanding Operation Gratitude’s footprint throughout the nation, establishing the BRIDGE Council of corporate, non-profit and civic partnerships, and expanding the reach of all Operation Gratitude care package programs, particularly to the First Responder community. During the challenging world-wide pandemic, Schmiegel deftly positioned the organization as an “essential service” and developed Operation Gratitude’s program to thank Health Care workers throughout the USA. During his 3+ year tenure, the organization distributed more than 1.3 million care packages.

Martha “Marty” Martin, Board Chairman, praised Schmiegel’s contributions saying, “I am extremely grateful to Kevin for his leadership of Operation Gratitude. Despite the disruption of the pandemic, he ensured the organization continued to thrive and grow. We support Kevin’s desire to pursue his personal passion and vision for making the country a better place. With his energy and enthusiasm, he will be successful and impact millions of lives with his future endeavors. Although he will be missed by his Operation Gratitude family, we salute his noble calling.” 

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Paul Cucinotta, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Operation Gratitude since January 2019, will serve as Interim CEO from August 1 through August 22, 2021.  “Paul has been an indispensable partner to the CEO since he joined us two and a half years ago,” said Chairwoman Martin. “He has earned the deep respect of his staff and the eternal appreciation of the Board, as he not only juggles his numerous responsibilities and roles within the organization, but also steps up to shepherd the transition of leadership.” 

Founded in 2003, the mission of Operation Gratitude is to say “Thank You” to all who serve our nation and to create opportunities for Americans nationwide to express their appreciation to the active U.S. Military and First Responder communities, and to New Recruits, Veterans, Gold Star Families, Wounded Heroes and their Caregivers. Operation Gratitude volunteers annually assemble 350,000+ customized care packages filled with an assortment of goods, including snacks, entertainment, hygiene, and handmade items, plus personal letters of appreciation. For details about specific care package and volunteer programs, please visit www.operationgratitude.com.


Major General James C. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (ret.) Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Schmiegel, U.S. Marine Corps (ret.)

Contact Data