The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016 - We Are The Mighty
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The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

Within the worlds of politics, business, advocacy, and media there are veterans who continue to serve in a wide variety of ways. Men and women who once fought the nation’s wars now shape the American landscape by doing everything from building cars with 3D printers to creating fashion trends, from making major motion pictures to passing laws.

The editors of WATM (with inputs from a proprietary panel of influencers) scanned the community and came up with a diverse list of those with the highest impact potential in the year ahead.


Here are The Mighty 25 for 2016:

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

1. STANLEY McCHRYSTAL — Co-Founder, The McChrystal Group

After a legendary career as an Army special operator, highlighted by effectively re-organizing JSOC and leading the war effort in Afghanistan, General McChrystal accelerated into the normally pedestrian world of business consulting. The same drive that made him an effective leader has informed the McChrystal Group‘s innovative approaches to the problems facing their clients. The company’s offices outside of DC feel like those of a Silicon Valley tech startup rather than a traditional Beltway firm, more Menlo Park than K Street, and he’s aggregated a hyper-talented team — including a number of veterans — who are changing the way consulting is done. McChrystal also serves as the Chair of the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute, advocating for a “service year” as an American cultural expectation. Watch for him to keep the press on there this year.

RELATED: Stan McChrystal talks about his inspiration for the Franklin Project

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

2. SETH MOULTON — Congressman from Massachusetts

Seth Moulton’s reluctant entry into politics was spurred primarily by his experiences as a Marine across four tours during the Iraq War – a war he didn’t believe in. After getting his MBA at Harvard and working for a start-up for a while, he decided to run for Congress as a Democrat in Massachusetts’s Sixth District. His first year in office was punctuated by efforts to improve veteran health care through the VA. He also opposed attempts to block Syrian refugees from entering the country. Expect more impact from this veteran lawmaker as his comfort level goes up in 2016.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

3. LOREE SUTTON — New York City Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs Commissioner

Retired Army Brigadier General Loree Sutton was appointed as New York City’s VA commissioner just over a year ago, and she hit the ground running, leveraging her experiences at places like the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury and the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood to solve the immediate issues facing Gotham’s veteran community. Her approaches to resilience, using a “working community” model that scales problems at the lowest level, have proved very effective in dealing with issues like claims backlogs and appointment wait times. Her successes in 2016 could well inform how other cities better serve veterans going forward.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

4. TM GIBBONS-NEFF — Reporter, The Washington Post

TM Gibbons-Neff served as a rifleman in 1st Battalion, 6th Marines and participated in two combat deployments to Helmand Province, Afghanistan before entering Georgetown University to pursue his English degree. He graduated this year and went from working as an intern at The Washington Post to earning a spot as one of their full-time reporters. As part of the Post’s national security staff, TM has reported on everything from the ISIS threat to the San Bernadino shootings. Watch for his reach to grow in 2016 as he continues to hones his already substantial journalism skills.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

5. NICK PALMISCIANO — Founder, CEO, Ranger Up!

After serving as an Army infantry officer, Nick Palmisciano came up with the idea of creating a military-focused clothing company while earning his MBA at Duke University. He founded Ranger Up! in 2006, and since that time he has led the way in leveraging the power of user-generated content and social media to create a brand that is as much identity as apparel to the company’s loyal consumer base. Nick also walked the walk by deliberately hiring veterans to staff Ranger Up!. Watch for his star to rise this year with the release of “Range 15” — an independent horror-comedy produced in collaboration with fellow military apparel company Article 15 — hitting theaters in May.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

6. MAT BEST — President, Article 15 Clothing

Article 15‘s motto is “hooligans with a dream,” and that atmosphere permeates all of the company’s products and productions. Mat Best brought the same attributes that made him an effective warfighter to the marketplace and those have made him a successful entrepreneur, but even more important to the military community is how his unapologetic brio has shaped attitudes around the veteran experience. Mat and his posse are the antithesis of the “vets as victims” narrative; these guys live life on their terms and that lesson has been prescriptive for legions of their peers looking for fun and meaningful ways to contribute at every level. Mat has meteoric impact potential this year as the star of the movie “Range 15,” which Article 15 co-created with Ranger Up!.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

7. CRAIG MULLANEY — Strategic Partner Manager, Facebook

After graduating West Point and studying as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, Craig Mullaney served in the Army for 8 years as an infantry officer, including a combat tour in Afghanistan. After he got out he was on the national security policy staff of President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. He also served as the Pentagon’s Principal Director for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia Policy and later on the Development Innovation Ventures team at the U.S. Agency for International Development. He is the author of the 2009 New York Times bestseller The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education. This year he’ll continue his influence in his role as strategic partnerships manager at Facebook, and among his duties is convincing global influencers and business executives to maintain personal Facebook pages.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

8. DAVID CHO — Co-founder, Soko Glam

This West Pointer and artillery officer took his Columbia MBA and joined his wife in the cosmetics business. Their company, Soko Glam, specializes in introducing Western customers to Korean cosmetics, beauty trends, and skincare regimens. David’s wife Charlotte Cho scours the market for the best and most trusted selection of products to bring to the U.S. while he handles the details around the business including biz dev and accounting. Together they have built Soko Glam into an international player in a very short time. Soko Glam also contributes to the veteran community by donating a percentage of profits to the USO.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

9. SARAH FORD — Founder, Ranch Road Boots

Texas born and bred, Sarah Ford was a Marine Corps logistics officer who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. After leaving active duty she received her MBA from Harvard and used that knowledge (along with a Kickstarter campaign) to launch Ranch Road Boots, a company founded on, as their website states, “love—for freedom, West Texas and a hell-bent determination to craft good-looking, well-made footwear.” Sarah continues to honor the branch in which she served; Ranch Road Boots donates a portion of all sales to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

10. TAYLOR JUSTICE — Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer, Unite US

Taylor Justice honed the grit he now brings to the business world during his days on the football team at West Point. Along with co-founder Dan Brillman, an Air Force tanker pilot, he’s created software that helps organizations to navigate the “Sea of Good Will,” the 40,000 organizations dedicated to helping veterans that have historically presented a challenge because of their sheer number and dizzying overlap. The Unite US site uses what the company describes as “interactive, proximity-mapping technology” to match vets to the services they need — sort of like Yelp for the military dot-org ecosystem. As the Sea of Good Will continues to grow in 2016, the demand on Unite US’s expertise is sure to increase.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

11. BOB McDONALD — Secretary of Veterans Affairs

This year Secretary McDonald continued his attempts to leverage his successes in the private sector to solve the daunting problems facing the VA. As he promised at the outset of his tenure he has remained very visible, even going so far as to broadcast his cell phone number to large crowds during his speaking engagements. In 2016 watch for his leadership to be focused on the West Los Angeles VA campus where a recent settlement in favor of improving veteran healthcare in the region has introduced as many challenges as it has created the potential for real change across the entire agency. (For more on that issue check out vatherightway.org.)

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

12. MARTY SKOVLUND — Freelance writer and film producer

Marty Skovlund has made his mark in media by bridging the gap between compelling content and deserving veteran causes. His company, Blackside Concepts, spawned six subsidiary brands — all high impact — in only three years. The sale of Blackside in 2015 has freed him to focus on his third book and various film and video projects, including a show idea that involves veteran teams racing across the world for charity. With the luxury of bandwidth, watch for this talented former Ranger to continue to build his portfolio in 2016.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

13. BLAKE HALL — CEO, ID.me

Blake Hall’s company, ID.me, first came to light among the military community as an easy way for veterans to verify their status to obtain discounts and services, but his ambitions live well beyond that utility. “We want to become an inseparable part of Internet identity,” Hall told The Washington Business Journal last spring. His strategy focuses on the twin prongs of identity: portability and acceptance, and if he continues his path of cracking those codes, ID.me has the potential to be ubiquitous in e-commerce, national security, and inter-agency coordination in 2016.

RELATED: Blake Hall guest appearance on 3 Vets Walk Into A Bar ‘Can ISIS be stopped?’ episode

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

14. JIM MURPHY — Founder and CEO, Invicta Challenge

After serving as a Marine Corps infantry officer in Iraq, Jim Murphy earned his MBA at the University of Southern California. During his studies he interned at Mattel, and that exposure sparked an idea. The Invicta Challenge combines online gaming, action figures, flash cards, and graphic novels to create a one-of-a-kind learning experience. The prototype, called “Flash & Thunder,” profiles Turner Turnbull’s actions on D-Day, but it’s not just a history lesson. It’s an interactive leadership challenge that brings history to life. While the Invicta Challenge is a natural for school-aged audiences, its unique presentation could also prove effective around military centers of excellence. With more games in the hopper, 2016 could be a year where Jim shifts into the next gear.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

15. JARED LYON — Chief Development Officer, Student Veterans of America

Jared Lyon went from a life beneath the waves as a Navy submariner and diver to a life of the mind as a student and academic. In the process of making that transition he became an ambassador for other student veterans. While the Post-9/11 GI Bill is arguably the best military benefit in history, trying to use it can present roadblocks — both academic and environmental — that can keep qualified veterans from earning their degrees. As Jared enters his second year on SVA‘s professional staff watch for him to continue to make life easier for those who’ve followed him back to school.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

16. TYLER MERRITT — Co-founder, Nine Line Apparel

Tyler Merritt founded Nine Line Apparel with his brother Daniel, also a former Army officer. From the start Savannah-based Nine Line was built with a specific purpose in mind, as expressed in the company’s mission statement: “It’s about being proud of who you are, what you wear, and how you walk through life . . . We don’t apologize for our love of country. We are America’s next greatest generation.” After one of Tyler’s West Point classmates lost three limbs fighting in Afghanistan in 2013, Nine Line added a foundation that gives a portion of proceeds to severely wounded veterans and their families.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

17. AMBER SCHLEUNING — Deputy Director, VA Center for Innovation

After five years and multiple tours to Iraq as an Army Engineer focused on counter-IED ops, Amber Schleuning returned to school to study post-conflict mental health. She’s held a wide variety of consulting and advisory roles with both public and private organizations including the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict and COMMIT Foundation. As VACI‘s Deputy Director, Amber is in charge of building a portfolio of partnerships with creative, innovative, and disruptive organizations to ensure effective services are available to veterans.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

18. NATE BOYER — Philanthropist, media personality

After multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as a Green Beret, Nate Boyer left active duty in 2012 and made the unorthodox move of returning to college to play football. His success as the Texas Longhorn’s long snapper led to a pre-season bid with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Although he was ultimately released by the team, the exposure helped him with other elements of his Renaissance Man portfolio, specifically Waterboys.org, a not-for-profit dedicated to providing clean drinking water to remote regions of Africa. This year Nate is poised to increase his impact with “MVP,” an organization formed with Fox Sports personality Jay Glazer that partners professional athletes with special operators to deal with the common challenges of career transition.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

19. BRAD HARRISON — Founder and managing partner, Scout Ventures

The same drive that got Brad Harrison through Airborne School and earned him his Ranger tab has served him well in the private sector. After honing his tech chops while working as AOL’s Director of Media Strategy and Development, he pivoted into the venture capital space where he’s been able to use his passion for technology, media, entertainment and lifestyle to assist fledgling businesses. His company, Scout Ventures, has quickly blossomed into one of the premier angel-to-institutional investment firms in New York.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

20. BRAD HUNSTABLE — Founder and CEO, Ustream

Brad Hunstable started Ustream in 2007 to connect service members to family and friends, but his vision has grown since then to include everybody, everywhere. Ustream is now the largest platform for enterprise and media video in the world with clients including Facebook, NBC, Cisco, Sony, Intuit, NASA and Salesforce. Ustream’s product suite is evidence of a company that intends to be a tool for both broadcast networks and citizen journalists. As more and more organization turn to video for effective impact, look for this West Pointer’s company to grow even more in 2016.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

21. JESSE IWUJI — Professional racecar driver

Jesse Iwuji started racing cars on a whim during his last semester as a midshipman at the Naval Academy, once Division I football was over for good. Since that time he’s moved up the ranks of American stock car racing, balancing time commitments at the track and juggling sponsors with his duties as a Navy surface warfare officer. Most recently he’s partnered with the Phoenix Patriot Foundation. “We dedicate each race weekend to a wounded veteran and his family,” he said. Jesse plans on getting out of the Navy at the end of his current tour to pursue bigger things as a NASCAR driver. He hopes to move up to the K&N Pro Series soon, driving a bigger car in front of bigger crowds. After that he wants to make it to the Xfinity series and, finally, the Sprint Cup.

RELATED: Navy officer feels the need for NASCAR speed

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

22. EVAN HAFER — CEO, Black Rifle Coffee Company

Evan Hafer always cared about a good cup of coffee regardless of where his Army duties took him, even when serving with the Green Beret in a variety of hostile regions. He founded Black Rifle Coffee — a “small batch roasting” company — this year with a simple motto: “Strong coffee for strong people.” In a commerce ecosystem known more for hipster baristas and progressive causes than unflinching patriotism and weapons expertise, BRCC is unique. (It’s doubtful any other coffee company would call a product “AK-47 Blend,” for instance.) BRCC’s attitude has caught on with the veteran audience; look for more warfighting grinds as well as a growing inventory of merchandize with a similar type-A tone in 2016.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

23. BRIAN STANN — President and CEO, Hire Heroes USA

Brian Stann has been labeled a “hero” in a couple of phases of his life, most notably when serving as a Marine Corps platoon leader in Iraq — actions that earned him the Silver Star — and winning titles as an ultimate fighter, including the WEC Light Heavyweight Championship in 2008. After announcing his retirement from the UFC in 2013 the Naval Academy alum assumed the role of President and CEO of Hire Heroes USA. Hire Heroes focuses on three different elements of the veteran hiring equation: empowering vets to find great jobs by building their confidence and skills, collaborating with military leaders and transition coordinators to build awareness of the company’s capabilities, and partnering with more than 200 companies, like Comcast and Deloitte, to find vets great jobs. This year Hire Heroes could emerge as the vet job board of choice as the company works to improve on its already impressive metric of 60 hires per week.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

24. JEREMY GOCKE — Founder and CEO, Ampsy

There are veterans who work in the tech sector, and then there are veterans like Jeremy Gocke who carve the leading edge of the tech sector. After getting an “Accelerator Finalist” nod at SXSW in 2014, the West Point grad and former Army Airborne officer founded Ampsy to slow the rate at which content falls into what he calls the “social media abyss.” Ampsy has a suite of social aggregation tools designed to improve a brand’s reach across the Twittersphere by solving what the company website calls “a major leakage problem in the customer acquisition and retention funnel.” Look for Jeremy to continue to stay ahead of the digital pack in 2016.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

25. JOHN B. ROGERS, JR. — CEO and Co-founder, Local Motors

Former Marine Corps infantry officer John B. Rogers, Jr.’s love of automobiles is only rivaled by his hatred of inefficient processes, which is why he created Local Motors, a company that uses Direct Digital Manufacturing (a.k.a. “3D printing”) to build cars. “Car manufacturers have been stamping parts the same way for more than 100 years,” he said. “We now have the technology to make the process and products better and faster by linking the online to the offline through DDM.” With the upcoming launch of the LM3D — the company’s first 3D printed car model — 2016 has the potential to be huge for Local Motors. Can you say “microfactory”?

Honorable mention:

DAKOTA MEYERNever Outgunned, TIM KENNEDY — “Hunting Hitler,” JAKE WOODTeam Rubicon, MIKE DOWLINGvatherightway.org, ZACH ISCOLTask&Purpose, BRANDON YOUNGTeam RWB, MAURA SULLIVANDepartment of Defense PA

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis issues strong condemnation of Russian aggression

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis strongly condemned Russia’s escalating provocations during a press conference at the Pentagon on March 27, 2018, following the Trump administration’s move to expel 60 Russian diplomats on March 26, 2018.


When asked how he viewed Russia’s latest aggressions, Mattis said, “Attempted murder of a man and his daughter, how’s that for starters,” referring to the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and Skripal’s daughter, Yulia, in Britain. The two remain hospitalized.

Also read: Mattis isn’t sure he can work with John Bolton

Several countries have kicked out Russian diplomats over the attack.”The brazen and criminal attack was an attack on all of us,” Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull said March 27, 2018, after expelling two Russian diplomats from his country.

Russia has denied any wrongdoing.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mattis suggested on March 27, 2018, that he is not convinced: “They point out that it can’t be proven who had tried to kill the person in Salisbury,” Mattis said. “They’re doing things they believe are deniable.”

“They take insignia off soldiers’ uniforms and they go into Crimea,” Mattis continued. “They say they have nothing to do with what’s going on with the separatists in eastern Ukraine; I’m not sure how they can say that with a straight face.”

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, triggering a military conflict with Ukraine and economic sanctions from the European Union and the US. Russian President Vladimir Putin denies his troops were in the country, but analysts have long suspected Russian forces of disguising themselves with tactics that include removing identifiable markings from their uniforms.

Related: Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons

The March 4, 2018, nerve-agent attack happened as Russia faces diplomatic pressures on multiple fronts, including from the US, where federal investigators are probing its meddling in elections that have stirred political and cultural discord among Americans.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia hacked the FBI to stop bureau from tracking Russian spies

The Russian government hacked into the FBI’s communication system to stop the bureau from being able to track Russian spies working in the US, Yahoo News reported in a bombshell investigation published Sept. 16, 2019.

The US in 2012 became aware of “the full gravity” of Russia’s ability to breach certain types of secure communications and track devices used by FBI surveillance teams, the report said. In addition to fearing that the Russians may have gained access to US intelligence channels, officials also believed that Russian spies could locate undercover FBI surveillance teams and the substance of FBI communications.

That would have not only enabled the Russians to evade surveillance and communicate with human sources, but given them the opportunity to collect information about their pursuers, Yahoo News reported. It also prompted concerns among officials that there was a Russian asset lurking within the US intelligence community.


The Russians first breached the FBI’s communication systems in 2010, after the arrest and exposure of a group of Russian spies in the US, Yahoo News said. That year, the FBI began investigating Russia’s efforts to recruit US assets; one of the foremost targets was Carter Page, who later served as a foreign-policy aide on President Donald Trump’s campaign.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

Carter Page.

The FBI informed Page in 2013 that the Russians were trying to cultivate him, but Page ignored their warnings and even publicly boasted about his connections to high-ranking Russian government officials.

The Russians are also said to have breached the backup communication channels the FBI used, something one former senior counterintelligence official told Yahoo News the US “took extremely seriously.”

The investigation found that Russia’s hack of the FBI’s communication systems was a key reason the Obama administration kicked out 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian diplomatic facilities in December 2016.

President Barack Obama said the measures were in retaliation for Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, but Yahoo News reported that the US also wanted to close those two compounds because they were critical to Russia’s efforts to intercept FBI communications.

Russia and the US have ramped up their counterintelligence and cybersecurity operations against each other in recent years as tensions between them mount.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

(Photo by Markus Spiske)

In particular, the US has recently targeted Russia’s electrical grid and placed “potentially crippling malware” within the Russian system, The New York Times reported in June 2019. Power grids have long been the focus of cyberattacks, but the US’s operation is the most aggressive yet and meant to serve as a warning to Russia, as well as position the US to carry out additional cyberattacks in the event of a conflict with Moscow, the report said.

The Times described two administration officials as saying there was “broad hesitation” to brief Trump in much detail about the operation, in part because of concerns about how Trump would react, or that he would shut down the operation or discuss it with foreign officials.

Trump’s disclosure of classified information to two Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting in 2017 contributed to the US’s decision to extract a top CIA asset in Russia shortly after, CNN reported last week.

Other US media outlets subsequently published key identifying details about the asset, and Russian state-sponsored media later said it had the intelligence operative’s name. Shortly after that, the Russian government filed a request with Interpol for more information about the spy.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

The 5 biggest stories in the military world right now (July 1)

It’s Hump Day, and here is what you need to know around the national security space this morning:


  • The death toll from the Indonesian Air Force C-130 mishap yesterday has risen to 142, according to Yahoo News.
  • WATM’s bud and Washington Post military correspondent Dan Lamothe reports on evidence that Russia has a secret base in Ukraine.
  • New images show the Chinese are building military facilities on reclaimed land in the South China Sea. WaPo has the full report here.
  • WATM’s other bud (yes, we have two), Leo Shane III of Military Times, writes that Congress is approving military nominations while sitting on civilian ones.
  • Man accused of taking bribes and paying kickbacks to obtain military contracts in Iraq is being sentenced today in Ohio. The Associated Press has coverage here.

Now read this: Russia has a ‘troll farm’ of people posting crazy internet comments all day long

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is beginning to draw down from fighting in Iraq

American troops have started to draw down from Iraq following Baghdad’s declaration of victory over the Islamic State group last year, according to Western contractors at a U.S.-led coalition base in Iraq.


In Baghdad, an Iraqi government spokesman on Feb. 5 confirmed to The Associated Press that the drawdown has begun, though he stressed it was still in its early stages and doesn’t mark the beginning of a complete pullout of U.S. forces.

Dozens of American soldiers have been transported from Iraq to Afghanistan on daily flights over the past week, along with weapons and equipment, the contractors said.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016
Sgt. Adonis Francisco, Alpha Company, 2-113th Infantry Battalion, patrols along a catwalk at the Camp Bucca Theater Internment Facility, the largest detention center in Iraq. (U.S. Army photo)

An AP reporter at the Al-Asad base in western Iraq saw troop movements reflecting the contractors’ account. The contractors spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations and declined to reveal the exact size of the drawdown.

“Continued coalition presence in Iraq will be conditions-based, proportional to the need and in coordination with the government of Iraq,” coalition spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon told the AP when asked for comment.

Government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said, “The battle against Daesh has ended, and so the level of the American presence will be reduced.”

Daesh is the Arabic language acronym for ISIS.

Al-Hadithi spoke just hours after AP reported the American drawdown — the first since the war against ISIS was launched over three years ago.

One senior Iraqi official close to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said 60 percent of all American troops currently in-country will be withdrawn, according to the initial agreement reached with the United States. The plan would leave a force of about 4,000 U.S. troops to continue training the Iraqi military.

Also Read: Iraqis want Shia militias to disarm in the wake of ISIS defeat

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

A Pentagon report released in November said there were 8,892 U.S. troops in Iraq as of late September.

The U.S. first launched airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq in August 2014. At the time, the military intervention was described as “limited,” but as Iraq’s military struggled to roll back the extremists, the U.S.-led coalition’s footprint in the country steadily grew.

“We’ve had a recent change of mission and soon we’ll be supporting a different theater of operations in the coming month,” U.S. Army 1st Lt. William John Raymond told the AP at Al-Asad.

He spoke as he and a handful of soldiers from his unit conducted equipment inventory checks required before leaving Iraq. Raymond declined to specify where his unit was being redeployed, in line with regulations as the information has not yet been made public.

The drawdown of U.S. forces comes just three months ahead of national elections in Iraq, where the indefinite presence of American troops continues to be a divisive issue.

Al-Abadi, who is looking to remain in office for another term, has long struggled to balance the often competing interests of Iraq’s two key allies: Iran and the United States.

While the U.S. has closely backed key Iraqi military victories over IS such as the retaking of the city of Mosul, Iraq’s Shiite-led paramilitary forces with close ties to Iran have called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The prime minister has previously stated that Iraq’s military will need American training for years to come.

The Iraq drawdown also follows the release of the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy that cited China’s rapidly expanding military and an increasingly aggressive Russia as the U.S. military’s top national security priorities.

“Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last month in remarks outlining the strategy.

Iraq declared victory over ISIS in December after more than three years of grueling combat against the extremists in a war Iraqi forces fought with close U.S. support. In 2014, at the height of the Sunni militant group’s power, ISIS controlled nearly a third of Iraqi territory.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016
A soldier with the United States Army shows off a captured ISIS flag. (US Army photo)

While ISIS’ self-styled caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria has crumbled and the militants no longer hold a contiguous stretch of territory, in Iraq, the group continues to pose a security risk, according to Iraqi and American officials.

ISIS maintains a “cellular structure” of fighters who carry out attacks in Iraq aimed at disrupting local security, U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. James Glynn told reporters during a Pentagon briefing last month.

Glynn pledged continued support for Iraq’s security forces, but acknowledged U.S.-led coalition “capabilities” in Iraq would likely shift now that conventional combat operations against the group have largely ceased.

There were some 170,000 American troops in Iraq in 2007 at the height of the surge of U.S. forces to combat sectarian violence unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion of the country to oust dictator Saddam Hussein. U.S. troop numbers eventually wound down to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011.

Articles

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack

U.S. forces in southern Syria came under attack by Islamic State militants around midnight local time on April 8, joining with local partner forces to repel the assault in an hours-long fight that required multiple airstrikes and left three U.S.-backed Syrian fighters dead.


U.S. special-operations advisers were on the ground near the al-Tanf border crossing when a force of 20 to 30 fighters with the Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as ISIS or ISIL, attacked in what a U.S. Central Command spokesman called a “complex and coordinated” attempt to take the base from the coalition.

Also read: Here’s how the U.S. hit that Syrian airbase

“U.S. and coalition forces were on the ground in the area as they normally are, and participated in repulsing the attack,” said Air Force Col. John J. Thomas, a spokesman for Central Command, according to the Associated Press.

“There was close-air support that was provided, there was ground support that was provided, and there was med-evac that was supported by the coalition,” Thomas added. No Americans were killed or wounded.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016
Marines train for attacks like this. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado)

“Clearly it was planned,” Thomas told reporters at the Pentagon. “The coalition and our partner forces had the resources to repulse that attack. A lot of them wound up being killed and the garrison remains controlled by the people in control before being attacked.”

“Ultimately the attackers were killed, defeated, or chased off,” Thomas said.

U.S. forces at al-Tanf, on Syria’s southern border with Jordan and Iraq, had initially withdrawn to avoid potential retaliatory action after the U.S. strike on an Assad regime airfield in western Syria.

The attack came from ISIS fighters disguised as U.S.-backed rebels, carrying M-16 rifles and using vehicles captured from U.S.-supported rebel groups. They struck first with a car bomb at the base entrance, which allowed some of the attackers to infiltrate the base. Many of the ISIS fighters were wearing suicide vests.

“Around 20 ISIS fighters attacked the base, and suicide bombers blew up the main gate, and clashes took place inside the base,” Tlass al-Salama, the commander of the Osoud al Sharqiya Army, part of the U.S.-backed moderate rebel alliance, told The Wall Street Journal.

Salama’s force sent reinforcements to the base, but they came under attack from other ISIS fighters.

Related: Mattis warns Syria against using chemical weapons again

U.S. special-operations forces and their Syrian partners who had moved out of the base quickly returned, and they initially repelled the attack on the ground in a firefight that lasted about three hours.

Coalition pilots also carried out multiple airstrikes amid the fighting, destroying ISIS vehicles and killing many of the terrorist group’s fighters.

“It was a serious fight,” a U.S. military official said April 10. “Whether or not it was a one-off, we will have to see.”

U.S. special-operations forces had been training vetted Syrian opposition troops at al-Tanf for more than a year. The Syrian opposition fighters in question were operating against ISIS in southern Syria and working with Jordan to maintain border security.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016
A fighter with the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. (Photo from SDF via Facebook)

The pullback from al-Tanf to safeguard against reprisals was just one step the coalition took in the aftermath of the U.S. strike on Shayrat airfield, which was believed to be the launching point for a chemical weapons attack on a Syrian village April 4.

The coalition also reduced the number of air missions it flew, out of concern Syrian or Russian forces would attempt to shoot down U.S. aircraft. The U.S. presence in Syria has increased in recent months, as Marines and other units arrive to aid U.S.-backed fighters.

ISIS may become more active in southern Syria as U.S.-backed forces close in on Raqqa, the terrorist group’s self-proclaimed capital located in northeast Syria. Top ISIS leaders have reportedly fled the city in recent months.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA launches CubeSats up in first launch with Rocket Lab

A series of new CubeSats now are in space, conducting a variety of scientific investigations and technology demonstrations, following launch of Rocket Lab’s first mission for NASA under a Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) contract.

An Electron rocket lifted off at 1:33 a.m. EST (7:33 p.m. NZDT) from the company’s launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, marking the first time CubeSats have launched for NASA on a rocket designed specifically for small payloads.


“With the VCLS effort, NASA has successfully advanced the commercial launch service choices for smaller payloads, providing viable dedicated small launch options as an alternative to the rideshare approach,” said Jim Norman, director of Launch Services at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This first mission is opening the door for future launch options.”

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

(Rocket Lab USA photo)

At the time of the VCLS award in 2015, launch opportunities for small satellites and science missions were limited to ridesharing — flying only when space was available on other missions. Managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, VCLS awards are designed to foster a commercial market where SmallSats and CubeSats could be placed in orbits to get the best science return.

This mission includes 10 Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa)-19 payloads, selected by NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. The initiative is designed to enhance technology development and student involvement. These payloads will provide information and demonstrations in the following areas:

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

Small research satellites, or CubeSats.

(NASA illustration)

“Low cost launch services to enable expanded science from smaller satellites are now a reality. NASA’s Earth Venture program and indeed our entire integrated, Earth-observing mission portfolio will benefit greatly from the ability to launch small satellites into optimal orbits, when and where we want them,” said Dr. Michael Freilich, Director of Earth Science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Our partnership with LSP on the VCLS effort is helping both NASA and the commercial launch sector.”

CubeSats are small satellites built in standard units of 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm, or in configurations of two, three or six units. These small satellites play a valuable role in the agency’s exploration, technology, educational, and science investigations, including planetary exploration, Earth observation, and fundamental Earth and space science. They are a cornerstone in the development of cutting-edge NASA technologies like laser communications, satellite-to-satellite communications and autonomous movement.

NASA will continue to offer CubeSats an opportunity to hitch a ride on primary missions in order to provide opportunities to accomplish mission objectives, and expects to announce the next round of CubeSats for future launches in February 2019.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why China is ready to become the new influencer in Pakistan

China may be looking to cozy up to its Middle East ally, Pakistan, now that the U.S. has vowed to cut security aid and other assistance to the country.


Historically, China and Pakistan have maintained close ties. Pakistan first recognized the People’s Republic of China fewer than two years after it was established. Pakistan’s Prime Minister has hailed China as his country’s “best and most trusted friend,” and the two nations remain close strategic trade partners.

But recent moves by China suggest the country may be looking to exploit Washington’s decision to slash Pakistani aid in order to gain geopolitical advantage over the U.S. in the region.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman was quick to defend Pakistan on January 2, just hours after Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, first announced it would continue to hold back $255 million in aid to the country. “Pakistan has made enormous efforts and sacrifice for the fight against terrorism and has made very outstanding contributions to the global cause of counter-terrorism.”

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016
Nikki Haley. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

“China and Pakistan are all-weather partners. We stand ready to promote and deepen our all-round cooperation so as to bring benefits to the two sides,” the spokesman added.

On Wednesday, the central bank of Pakistan announced it would begin using Chinese yuan (CNY) for bilateral trade and investment activities, saying that it “foresees that CNY denominated trade with China will increase significantly going forward; and will yield long term benefits for both the countries.”

China’s Ambassador to Pakistan announced during his visit to the country on January 3rd that China will expedite its multibillion dollar infrastructure project in Pakistan, called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of China’s One Belt One Road initiative to expand its trade influence across the globe.

But China’s decision comes not out of humanitarian goodness, but political and economic strategy.

China sees its opening

According to Terry McCarthy, President CEO of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, China will be quick to exploit any potential openings with Pakistan.

“China has a rivalry with both the U.S. and India, and mainly China is using Pakistan as an anchor for its One Belt One Road policy,” McCarthy told Business Insider.

Also Read: This is why Pakistan drives its nukes around in delivery vans

McCarthy explained that Pakistan is strategic to China expanding its own power, and serves as a crucial entry-point for the southern end of China’s One Belt One Road development initiative, which cuts through Pakistan. Moreover, Chinese developments continue the flow of Chinese labor and supply into Pakistan, which provides China with an economic boost.

Pakistan also plans to reap the benefits from closer ties to China.

McCarthy said Pakistan uses its alliance with China as a “counterbalance” to the U.S. and its main foe, India. And while China doesn’t provide huge amounts of aid to Pakistan, it does provide “solid economic assistance” in the form of projects and infrastructure.

More importantly, China has Pakistan’s back, according to McCarthy: “Unlike the U.S., China doesn’t comment on human rights, and has no particular stance on Pakistan’s human rights issues.”

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016
U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson, flanked by his delegation participate in a bilateral meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the Pakistani Government of Representatives at the Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 24, 2017. (Photo from U.S. State Department.)

The U.S. has strongly condemned Islamabad’s alleged support for Haqqani militants, who are aligned with the Afghan Taliban.

Still, McCarthy believes that while Pakistan and China’s relationship will grow stronger as a byproduct of cuts in U.S. aid, the U.S. still plays an important role to Pakistan, despite major strains.

“There’s no doubt that the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is not that healthy at the moment. At the end of the day, Pakistan still needs some relationship with the U.S. because they’re not going to get everything they need from China.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia will challenge any UN ban of killer robots

Russian diplomats delivered a message for those who want to ban killer robots: Russia will build them no matter what. That is the sum total of what happened during a week of discussion on the issue of weapons and vehicles operated by artificial intelligence in Geneva.


According to a report by DefenseOne.com, a statement by the Russian government on Nov. 10 laid out a very hard-line position against the ban on what the United Nations is calling “lethal autonomous weapon systems,” or LAWS.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016
This screen capture fro a video released by the Russian Republic of Dagestan shows a robot equipped with weapons. (Youtube screenshot)

“According to the Russian Federation, the lack of working samples of such weapons systems remains the main problem in the discussion on LAWS,” the statement said. “Certainly, there are precedents of reaching international agreements that establish a preventive ban on prospective types of weapons. However, this can hardly be considered as an argument for taking preventive prohibitive or restrictive measures against LAWS being a by far more complex and wide class of weapons of which the current understanding of humankind is rather approximate.”

The Russians also claimed that there was a risk of harming civilian artificial intelligence capabilities, saying, “It is hardly acceptable for the work on LAWS to restrict the freedom to enjoy the benefits of autonomous technologies being the future of humankind.”

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016
An Endeavor Robotics 710 Kobra checks out a vehicle. (Youtube screenshot)

The Russian hard line comes as questions percolate about Russian compliance with other arms control treaties. Russia has already been accused of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, prompting the United States to begin development of a new ground-launched cruise missile. A report from RealClearDefense.com noted that Russia’s force of Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers may have been modified in a manner that fits the definition of strategic bombers under the New START Treaty.

In the past, some arms control treaties have not prevented bad guys from using banned weapons. The Chemical Weapons Convention did not prevent the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from using mustard agent against American troops in 2016.

Articles

This Iraq War vet counters Trump’s claim that soldiers stole millions

(Editor’s note: We Are The Mighty has no political affiliation. This post is presented solely because of the veteran response in this case.)


Iraq War vet and music journalist Corbin Reiff didn’t take too kindly to Donald Trump’s comments on the campaign trail recently that insinuated that U.S. soldiers stole the money they were supposed to give out for Iraqi reconstruction projects. Reiff took to Twitter with the following burst of tweets, 140 characters per:

Articles

Let’s talk about how many US troops are really in Afghanistan

The Pentagon, on Aug. 30, sharply raised its estimate of the number of US troops currently in Afghanistan, ahead of a decision on adding thousands more under President Donald Trump’s new strategy for the war-wracked country.


Pentagon Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said a comprehensive review showed that there were approximately 11,000 uniformed US servicemen and women in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon has said previously that there were roughly 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan, under a cap set during former President Barack Obama’s administration.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016
Army Reserve photo by Tulara McCauley

Military officials have long quietly acknowledged there were far more forces in the country than the cap allowed, but commanders shuffled troops in and out, labeled many “temporary,” and used other personnel-accounting tactics to artificially keep the public count low.

“This is not a troop increase,” but rather an effort to be more transparent about the total size of the US force, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

The new count, which includes temporary and covert units as well as regular forces, was made to establish the basis for an increase in troops — possibly by around 4,000 — under Trump’s revised strategy to better support Afghan troops in the fight against the Taliban.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Green Beret killed in Niger fought on after being shot 18 times

Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson died in a hail of gunfire, hit as many as 18 times as he took cover in thick brush, fighting to the end after fleeing militants who had just killed three comrades in an October ambush in Niger, The Associated Press has learned.


A military investigation has concluded that Johnson wasn’t captured alive or killed at close range, dispelling a swirl of rumors about how he died.

The report has determined that Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, was killed by enemy rifle and machine gun fire from members of an Islamic State offshoot, according to U.S. officials familiar with the findings. The Oct. 4 ambush took place about 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Niamey, the African nation’s capital. Johnson’s body was recovered two days later.

U.S. officials familiar with the findings spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to describe details of an investigation that has not been finalized or publicly released.

A 12-member Army special forces unit was accompanying 30 Nigerien forces when they were attacked in a densely wooded area by as many as 50 militants traveling by vehicle and carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Johnson was struck as many as 18 times from a distance by a volley of machine gun rounds, according to the U.S. officials, who said he was firing back as he and two Nigerien soldiers tried to escape.

All told, four U.S. soldiers and four Nigerien troops were killed in the ambush. Two U.S. and eight Nigerien troops were wounded.

The Mighty 25: Veterans poised for impact in 2016

The bodies of three U.S. Green Berets were located on the day of the attack, but not Johnson’s remains. The gap in time led to questions about whether Johnson was killed in the assault and not found, or if he was taken away by the enemy.

According to the officials, a medical examination concluded that Johnson was hit by fire from M-4 rifles — probably stolen by the insurgents — and Soviet-made heavy machine guns. It is believed he died in the attack.

The officials said Johnson was found under thick scrub brush where he tried to take cover. There were no indications he was shot at close range, or had been bound or taken prisoner, as several media reports have suggested.

A U.S. Africa Command began its investigation with a team headed by Army Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, the command’s chief of staff. The team visited locations in Niger to collect evidence and information about the attack, and will soon submit a draft of Cloutier’s report to Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of Africa Command. Waldhauser could ask for additional information. The final report is expected to be released next month.

Read More: This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down

The officials familiar with the report’s conclusions said that during the attack, Johnson and two Nigerien soldiers tried to get to a vehicle to escape, but were unable to do so, became separated from the others and were shot as they were running for safety.

The report concluded that Johnson, who was athletic and a runner, was in the lead and got the farthest away, seeking cover in the brush. Officials said there were a number of enemy shells around Johnson, and evidence that he appeared to fight to the end. His boots and other equipment were later stolen, but he was still wearing his uniform.

As news of the ambush came out, the U.S. military sent in rescue teams to search for Johnson, not making his status public in the hope he might have gotten away and was still alive and hiding. The Pentagon only acknowledged that he was missing after his body was located two days later by local forces.

The Pentagon has declined to release details about the exact mission of the commando team. U.S. officials have previously said that the joint U.S.-Niger patrol had been asked to assist a second American commando team hunting for a senior Islamic State member, who also had former ties to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The team had been asked to go to a location where the insurgent had last been seen, and collect intelligence.

After completing that mission, the troops stopped in a village for a short time to get food and water, then left. The U.S. military believes someone in the village may have tipped off attackers to the presence of U.S. commandoes and Nigerien forces in the area, setting in motion the ambush.

U.S. special operations forces have been routinely working with Niger’s forces, helping them to improve their abilities to fight extremists in the region. That effort has increased in recent years, the Pentagon said.

The three other Americans killed were Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia. Black and Wright were Army Special Forces. Johnson and Johnson were not commandos.

Johnson’s combat death led to a political squabble between President Donald Trump and a Democratic congresswoman from Florida after Trump told Johnson’s pregnant widow in a phone call that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” Rep. Frederica Wilson was riding with Johnson’s family to meet the body and heard the call on speakerphone. The spat grew to include Trump’s chief of staff, who called Wilson an “empty barrel” making noise.

Articles

The veteran’s guide to getting a job on Capitol Hill

Purpose:


This “how to” guide is for veterans who are interested in working on the Hill. Staffers are the most common Hill positions in both the House and Senate. Personal staffers work for members and professional staffers work on committees. Most offices separate policy topics into portfolios and oftentimes veterans are most qualified to cover the Department of Veterans Affairs, foreign affairs and/or DoD/military. However, based upon the veterans’ education and career field they may be qualified for other portfolios.

How to Search for the Perfect Hill Position

  • Sign up for HillVets Insider
    1. HillVets Insider often posts positions that are being exclusively offered to veterans via HillVets
    2. HillVets also proactively sends resumes to positions and postings as an official “HillVets Recommended Candidate” when we come across members that we believe are good fits for open positions.
    3. As such be sure to provide HillVets Insider with your latest resume even after you land your first job!
  • Get on a job list
    1. Tom Manatos (free for Veterans participating in the Veterans Congressional Fellowship, costs $5 per month)-best resource, stays up to date on new jobs and takes down positions that were filled. Updated daily. Register at http://www.tommanatosjobs.com/
    2. Scott Baker (free)—good place to start but is not always up to date and positions that are filled may stay on the list for weeks. Emails sent out weekly. Email Scott Baker at m.r.baker@gmail.com and ask him to add you to his job lists.
    3. Brad Traverse. Is another Capitol Hill job board that requires a subscription. $10 registration, $5 monthly dues. Traverse and Manatos are generally accepted as the lead job posting subscriptions; Manatos started in the democratic space, Traverse in the Republican space, both have moved towards posting jobs for both parties. http://www.bradtraverse.com/joblistings.cfm
  • Network through HillVets and build a team to help you with your job search. This is key as staffers know each other and if there is a position open in an office a staffer friend can inquire and pass your resume on to the office of interest. Offices receive hundreds of resumes for positions and any way to get yours noticed is a plus.
    1. Compile an email list of staff, or people that know staffers, that you have met with.
    2. When you apply for an open position let them know that you did so and ask if they know anyone in that office. Recommend your emails subject lead with your name and the member office as these emails can be easily screened if the busy staffer does not know anyone in the said office. For example John Doe (you)/Rep. John Doe
    3. Never assume that staffers from the opposite party can or will not be helpful in your hunt! This is a common mistake that we have seen over and over again. We have had young veterans insinuate we could not help them because we were on one side of the aisle or the other when in fact we have hundreds of friends on both sides many of which may be close friends. The reality in Washington, if you are going to be good, or have been here for any period of time, you not only have a few contacts on the other side, but a lot, so keep this in mind as you network!
  • Questions to ask yourself
    1. What states do I have a connection to?—Offices like to hire people from their state. Start with your home of record but also explore states where you were assigned to in the military, or where you went to school.
    2. What kind of job do I want on the Hill?
      1. Policy—legislative assistants (LAs) are assigned portfolios and work on legislation in those areas. For most separating military personnel interested in policy work, this is the most appropriate position for you but may be very difficult to land out of the gate.
        1. Legislative Correspondents—work for LAs by handling mail, taking meetings, and assisting with research. Some offices have LCs doing LA work, which is great but the LC is most likely being paid less than an LA.
      2. Communications—All offices have communication directors and assistants.
    3. When can I start work?—If you are coming off of active duty think about when you will be taking terminal leave and when you can actually start a new position. Networking and applying for positions is important but create a timeline for yourself from the earliest you can begin a position.
    4. Who do I know that is currently or previously worked on the Hill?—these people are your new best friends. Talk to them about your interest in the Hill and get their advice and perspectives. Congressional offices all work a little differently and you want to know if there are offices to avoid.
    5. Do I have a preference for House or Senate positions?—the House and Senate operate differently and have different cultures. There is much to be learned in both chambers and people often work or intern in both. As you network ask people how they like the Senate or House and the differences that they perceive in each.

Getting the First Job: So you are on a couple of job lists, you have some hill buddies, and you are actively looking for a position…now what!!!

  • Create a phenomenal resume and cover letter.
    1. The Resume—Almost always 1 page, rarely 2. The only purpose of the resume is to get you an interview. The resumes purpose is not to tell your life story and highlight things that only you will care about, it should tell the employer what your value is to them if they hire you. You are not applying for a military awards package OR a GS federal job. Your resume should be something in between. Offices get hundreds of resumes for positions and do not have time to read 10 page resumes and will not understand 20 acronyms.
      1. If printing, use high quality, heavier weight, and off-white paper. This will set you apart in a stack of hundreds and shows attention to detail
      2. Ask people on the Hill if you can review their resumes
  • Look at how Hill staffers place their resumes on LinkedIn
  1. Ask other HillVets members to review your resume
  2. Highlight your military experiences, particularly deployments
  1. The Cover Letter—You can use general language for the cover letter and then tailor for specific positions and offices. Do not make your letter longer than 1 page, and relate your military experiences to what you want to do on the Hill. Generally these should explain why you are interested in the position, the skills you have to offer, and what makes you a unique/best fit for the position.
  2. Ask at least 5 people to closely review your cover letter and resume for grammar mistakes and advice on how to make both stronger.
  • You Got an Interview!
    1. Reach out to your Hill network (previously highlighted) and ask if they know anything about the office or member.
    2. If you are interviewing with a personal office you will most likely interview with the Legislative Director and/or Chief of Staff. Most offices will prefer someone with Hill experience, which includes internships and fellowships. This is where you have to sell your military experience and overcome lack of prior Hill experience (if that is your situation).
      1. Be likable, warm and friendly to everyone in the office. Offices have too many candidates to choose from to not select someone that feels like a good fit for their office and culture. Smile!
      2. Inspection ready is the dress code of the day, seems obvious but we have had to address this before…
  • Think about general skills that you obtained from being a military officer or NCO such as: leadership, responsibility, general understanding of the military, experience working with all kinds of people, communication skills, professionalism.
  1. Think about what your career field experiences bring to the position. Remember that you have the advantage of serving in the military and try to think of your understanding of the military prior to your service. A majority of staffers have NO military experience and limited understanding of how DoD works. That is a huge selling point.
  2. If you have connections to the state make sure to explain your connection. Did you grow up in the state? Go to school there? Were you assigned to an installation in the state? If you are applying for a military portfolio position, know the military installations in the state. Explain why you care about the state.
  3. Do your research! Know a bit about the member, their issues, what committee the member sits on and explain what you can bring to the table. Know if the member is a veteran, which branch did they serve; do you have anything in common?
  1. You did great on your first interview and now you are called back to meet the member! Very exciting and means that you get to meet a member of Congress and are shortlisted for a staff position.
    1. Think about your first interview and topics that you spent time discussing. What points do you feel made you strong? Emphasize those in the interview with the member.
    2. Do more research on the member. Be familiar with legislation they have introduced. Be ready to talk about the stuff they care about (which is germane to the position you are applying). Be personable and the job is yours!

Financial Expectations

  • You are likely going to make less money as a Hill staffer than you did on active duty.
    1. Again personal offices vary on pay. Legistorm (legistorm.com) is a service that provides information on Hill staffers, including their income. You can view the most recent salaries of staffers for free on the site to get a sense of how much you can expect to make in a given office for a given position. The salary of the recently departed staffer is likely listed if you know who that is or you can compare the pay rates of the various staffers in the current position you are interviewing for.
    2. Some negotiation of salary is normal but remember these jobs are very competitive and the office may refuse to increase the salary offer. Then you must decide if this is a position you want.
  • Benefits:
    1. Health Insurance: Currently Hill staffers must buy their health insurance off of the insurance exchange unless they are in a Committee office, then they may be eligible for the same insurance held by federal employees.
    2. Leave days: Varies by offices. Some offices will take into account your federal service and give you more days. The good news is that you will never be charged leave on weekends or federal holidays!

Conclusion: Working on the Hill is an amazing experience and if you get the opportunity to do it…Do IT! However, it is high tempo, intense, and tough work. Be ready to experience a learning curve and accept that you are starting a new career in a new environment. HillVets is here to help you move into this realm. We believe that more veteran voices are needed on the Hill to provide our experiences and perspectives to members and staffs for the good of our Nation. The right job is out there and we are ready to help you find it. Stay Positive, these are not easy jobs to land and competition is fierce. Typical timeframes to find your first job is months, so keep that in mind. Keep piling through the “no’s” to get to your first “yes.” The first one is the hardest one by far.

Happy Hunting!

Jennifer Mitchell is the Military/Veterans’ Affairs Legislative Assistant for Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL). As a Military Legislative Assistant, Jennifer advises Senator Kirk and his staff on military and VA appropriations and policy issues. She also works to address Illinois veteran issues including access to healthcare. Jennifer is a licensed attorney and attended law school at Chicago-Kent College of Law. 

 

Prior to her current position in Sen. Kirk’s office, Jennifer was an active duty Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer and is currently an Air Force Reserve officer. As a JAG, Jennifer assisted hundreds of military members, retirees, and their family members on a variety of legal issues ranging from bankruptcy to family law to will preparation. She practiced military justice by administratively disciplining and prosecuting military members for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Jennifer also specialized in federal labor and employment law where she negotiated union contracts and defended the Air Force against discrimination and wrongful employment cases. 

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