As principal of Central High School he is fluent in advanced education jargon. As a colonel in the Alabama Army National Guard, he can translate military gobbledygook into English and never miss a syllable.
Most of the time, Vickers keeps these chapters of his life in separate compartments but for the second time in five years he is leaving behind 1,200 high school students in Phenix City to take command of 40 lieutenant colonels and non-commissioned officers in Kuwait.
"I'll work for a one-star general, which is kind of like being a principal working for a superintendent," he said.
Vickers was assistant principal and offensive coordinator for the Red Devil football team when he was deployed in 2007. "Tourists pay thousands of dollars to come to Kuwait City, and I got paid to come here to send photos so none of you have to worry about coming," he wrote to students from the desert.
Back then his little boy was a first grader, unable to grasp the concept of war. Tommy Jr. is now in the sixth grade, aware that his father won't be there to cheer him on in his final year of Little League baseball and first year of middle school football.
This is the path Tommy Vickers chose so don't expect an invitation to a pity party in his honor. He knows he isn't alone. Thousands of American families are locked in the revolving door of deployment. Service men and women may not enjoy living out of a duffel bag, but in the modern military, it goes with the uniform.
Vickers grew up an Army brat and enlisted in the guard to defray tuition costs when he enrolled at Auburn University 26 years ago. He graduated from Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning in 1988.
To him, the careers blend perfectly.
"I've developed leadership skills as a soldier that carry over to the schoolhouse," he said. "But I could not have done these things without a superintendent and a board that understands."
Vickers and Superintendent Larry DiChiara are discussing ways to fill the void at Central while the principal is away. An interim principal is one option.
The veteran educator leaves in January for a one-year stint in Kuwait, where he will be chief of staff for a logistics unit charged with distribution of food, water, ammunition, clothing and other essential goods.
Vickers is blessed that he will celebrate both Christmas seasons at home. On the ground in Kuwait, he'll be able to have face-to-face conversations with his family through the magic of the Internet.
But it still isn't home.
"This is demanding on my family and on the school, but I enjoy it," he said. "Besides, if I don't go, who will?"
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at email@example.com.