Working with the Special Operations Association of America (SOAA) has provided me with a platform to meet congressional leaders on key concerns that impact female Special Operations Forces (SOF) Soldiers. One of my key concerns is the need for better healthcare and benefits for SOF women. One area in which I am working with SOAA and congressional leaders to move legislation forward is the need for systemic change within our healthcare and benefits system to better support our female SOF Soldiers.
As a member of SOAA’s Board of Directors, I have had multiple opportunities to sit at the table with congressional leaders. During one such event, I had the pleasure of meeting Congressman Michael McCaul, the representative for the 10th District of Texas and the Republican Leader of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman McCaul had invited five members of SOAA to his DC home for dinner. The five of us had a chance to share our service stories of combat deployments and serving in SOF. Congressman McCaul was generous with his time and showed enormous interest in the concerns and challenges facing members of the special operations community. He accepted each of our stories in their unique ways.
My story, along with many of my Cultural Support Team (CST) members, is not well known. The Cultural Support Team program was formalized in 2011 when SOCOM identified the need to train and deploy female operators in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The CST women deployed as two women teams to support ODA teams in Afghanistan, and I was part of the first rotation of CST women to deploy in 2011. I worked in both Village Stability Operations and Direction Action Operations with two back-to-back combat deployments.
During the dinner, I noticed that Congressman McCaul was absorbed with my story and expressed great respect for female members of the special operations community. I explained some of the challenges we face as SOF women and he made a point to ask more questions in order to better understand the CST program. This dinner provided me with an open platform to speak with a congressional leader on the mental and physical impacts that these deployments have on the female operators as well as the lack of support we receive. While sharing my story, Congressman McCaul took great concern for bringing more awareness to the women serving in special operations.
I know that without SOAA as well as our connections and influences at the congressional level, I would not have received this unique opportunity to meet Congressman McCaul and his staff for an informal dinner to discuss these challenges. This dinner was an experience that I wholly believe would not have happened without the influence of SOAA and the relationships that the founders, like Daniel Elkins, have created at the congressional level.
Author: Jaclyn Scott
Jaclyn “Jax” is a tenured Special Operations Warrant Officer, with over 17 years of experience. She is an expert in military cyber policy and has led global development operations in cyber countermeasures to mitigate near-peer attacks. She is a tech blogger, podcaster, entrepreneur, and senior analyst in Global Intelligence. She is committed to her growth as a leader and is currently co-authoring a cybersecurity book and finishing her Master’s in Cybersecurity Risk Management at Georgetown University.