Military Appreciation Month Profiles of USGLC State Leaders

May 31, 2024 By Elizabeth Onibokun

The USGLC is proud to have a wide and deeply engaged coalition of government, business, military, faith, and humanitarian leaders committed to building a safer and more prosperous world for all. This month, in celebration of Military Appreciation Month, we are shining a spotlight on three of our USGLC state leaders, the impactful work they are carrying out as part of our Armed Forces, and why leading globally matters locally.

Jen Thurman is a language and Chinese strategic competition expert for the United States Air Force and is speaking in a personal capacity in this interview. She was a member of the USGLC’s Next Gen Global Leaders Network Class of 2023 and is now on the USGLC Texas Advisory Committee.

There are constant debates in our country on our national security and how we can best defend ourselves amidst growing threats. As someone serving in our Air Force, what do you think should be top of mind in these debates and as a nation how can we best defend ourselves in such unprecedented times?

That’s a great question. And honestly, a really complicated one. As a military member, I think our mind first goes to using military engagement as a form of defense and while that certainly matters — that’s not my primary focus. I think defense takes a lot of forms. And I think that national security and the protection of our nation’s interest takes a lot of forms. Economic security is national security, energy security, in particular, and the piece that cybersecurity plays is also huge.

Can you speak to the importance of the full suite of tools we have at our disposal as a nation? In addition to military engagement, what is the significance of our civilian led tools of development and diplomacy and how should we best employ them?

All these questions tie together so perfectly. The quote that that we use with the USGLC all the time, is the General Mattis quote that states, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.” This suite of tools speaks to preventative diplomacy and deterrence. I think that’s crucial because properly deployed diplomacy can save billions and trillions of dollars and countless lives. We need the military engagement to back up those words, but we must be able to convince our adversaries that trying to achieve their objectives through force will fail, and then use diplomacy to help them understand that they have more to gain through peaceful cooperation and through collective development.

I think the biggest one for me in our suite of tools is our allies and our institutions. I think that none of the things that we desire to do can be done alone. And what we enjoy that our adversaries don’t is that we have true allies. Not ones who were bullied into submission because of predatory economics, but true allies who share our values and our interests. I think that’s crucial in maintaining our position in global leadership.

From everything you’ve experienced in your service, what is something you believe the everyday American needs to hear regarding the importance of U.S. engagement with the world?

I’ve spent a lot of time traveling across the United States and I’ve seen the wide variety of communities and backgrounds and understanding. I hear a lot of, “We have so much to worry about at home, and shouldn’t we focus on those problems?” So, I try to convey that our focus at home and our focus abroad aren’t mutually exclusive. We’ve seen countless examples over the years of how American engagement globally, makes us better. I think we best saw that post World War II, where American engagement was at its highest. We were able to build alliances with other like-minded democracies and shape the norms and institutions that generated global governance. And during that time, I think we benefited more than anybody, because we experienced unprecedented global prosperity and democracy and security around the world.

It benefits us every single day in ways that we may not initially pick up on. We’ve also seen examples of the contrary where each time we abdicate a position of power or we pull out a treaty or an agreement, our adversaries are gleeful about filling that power vacuum. It really comes down to who do we want to have influence around the world. Do we want it to be us? Or do we want it to be our adversaries?

As we say here at the USGLC, “leading globally matters locally.” What does that phrase mean to you and what are the greatest implications of global leadership for us here at home in our local communities? 

The big thing that we take away is that our leading globally impacts us locally because we’re looking to preserve our way of life. We, as a nation, believe in the values that underpin democracy. And so, as we lead globally, we’re able to advocate and promote that continued way of life. I think that’s what it means to me. One of the things that I get to see in my day-to-day life and in my current community in San Angelo, Texas is just how much some of our cities across America are becoming global hubs. They are leading the conversations around the globe and attracting foreign investment in a way that we didn’t see in our past pre-globalization era.

One of the things for me that is huge is to watch our local and state leaders communicate the things that matter to those communities because they know them intimately and much better than any of the rest of us do. They’re able to bring those discussions to the table and help shape our broader foreign policy through people who understand the way that it impacts the average American.

You can follow Jen on Linkedin.

Learn more about the USGLC in Texas and the Texas USGLC Advisory Committee.

Captain James “Jimmy” Anderson is the former Senior Advisor for Veterans and Military Engagement in The White House’s Office of Public Engagement during the Biden-Harris Administration and is an Air Force Reserve Officer. He is speaking in a personal capacity in this interview and is a member of the USGLC’s Veterans for Smart Power network.

From everything you’ve experienced in your service, what is something you believe the everyday American needs to hear regarding the importance of U.S. engagement with the world?

I think there’s more we could be doing to connect to the public, so I’ll say at the outset that this conversation is timely. From my service, I’ll tell you that there is still a civilian-military divide where not enough of the American public knows about what the military does. And not enough of the military knows about what civilians and communities do because they typically exist in their own service member ecosystems. It really goes both ways. I think being able to get as local as you can and targeting military and veteran communities is something that can benefit everyday Americans. I think the USGLC is the top mover in this space because no one else can do this at the scale and relevance that the USGLC does it.

From your perspective, what is the overall importance of development and diplomacy and how we can best use them in our global leadership? Especially, when considering military engagement as another tool at our disposal.

In the military, there is this mentality most of the time of finding the largest hammer, finding the nail, and focusing on execution. And I think that one of the things that the USGLC has been great on is emphasizing the role of development and smart power. For development, it serves as a good tool that’s complementary with our presence on the global stage, and it complements our military presence. The importance of Development has grown even more so than it has been since the end of World War II and the creation of the Marshall Plan. As the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress are talking about the United States’ pacing challenge with China development can be used as a buttress against an emerging geo strategic threat like China. And the USGLC has a unique role to be able to tell that story in communities across this country and how important it is.

And then with diplomacy, there are intersectional questions like globally how do we deal with things like ethics in artificial intelligence? How does the international community deal with climate change? What are the evolving roles of international organizations and does the U.S. fit in? Diplomacy continues to be important especially as we approach Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Bilateral diplomacy will continue to influence how these existing conflicts are managed. But we’ve got large challenges that extend beyond countries and regions that are much more amorphous and across the globe. Diplomacy can be one of the best tools to be able to tap into to confront those challenges.

As we say here at the USGLC, “leading globally matters locally.” What does that phrase mean to you and what are the greatest implications of global leadership for us here at home in our local communities? 

First, it makes me think of two quotes. I think of the quote by Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill, “All politics is local.” And another quote comes to mind, “Think global, act local.” There are issues like climate change which obviously have large implications on the world stage, but it also has significant impacts on our communities here at home that are also impacted by climate change. So, I really think that this quote speaks to how important it is to start to bridge those relationships between cities across the United States through subnational diplomacy and making sure that localities have a level of understanding of some of the national security challenges that can affect their communities. It’s also not just about the large cities like New York City or Atlanta but also our smaller and midsized cities that are experiencing all types of different interest areas from climate change to immigration. To me, one of the greatest opportunities is that we must get to a point where the American public knows that these global issues affect us directly. I think that USGLC plays a unique role in being able to tell that story.

You can follow Jimmy on Linkedin and can find him on X and Instagram @JimmyAndersonSC

Learn more about the USGLC’s Veterans for Smart Power network here.

Lieutenant Tyler Mitchell serves as Second Lieutenant of the South Carolina State Guard and is speaking in a personal capacity in this interview. He is also a member of the USGLC’s Next Gen Global Leaders Network Class of 2024.

How can we best use our civilian-led tools of development and diplomacy as a means of conflict resolution?

Our higher education programs have made great strides within our country. I can speak from my own experience from my alma mater, The Citadel. We had a lot of foreign exchange students, from Taiwan and other countries, and so that exchange gives everyone the opportunity to understand each other’s cultures and where the other is coming from. The Citadel being what it is — a prominent military institution — it’s important to have people from all different backgrounds coming together to work towards a common goal. It’s valuable for people from other places to come to our country and feel welcome and like they’re part of something great. We appreciated that no matter where we came from, what our background was, we were there to become principled leaders. And I think that in order to build diplomacy, you have to acknowledge the need to lead effectively. You must remember that no matter who is at the helm, it’s important that everyone goes in the right direction together.

As a current NextGen member, have the sessions given you a different perspective on our global leadership and how we are engaging with the world? What has stood out for you?

I think what stood out is hearing how people view leadership and knowing what it takes to be a real global leader. I think some people are born into leadership, whether it’s their father or grandfather who was an elected official or a Fortune 500 CEO. Everyone has a different avenue to what makes them become a leader, so I’ve really been picking the brains of different participants and different perspectives. And asking myself, how would I communicate this to a foreigner from another country? What do they think about Americans who are facing similar issues? I’ve really been listening to try to gather all the information and learn different ways of getting the job done. It’s called the Next Gen program but right now, we are the current leaders.

As we say here at the USGLC, “leading globally matters locally.” What does that phrase mean to you and what are the greatest implications of global leadership for us here at home in our local communities? 

When you think back to World War II, historically the Americans stayed out of it until Pearl Harbor happened. Then suddenly, there was a need and desperation to take part in global affairs because of the devastating local impact. It’s important for Americans to maintain our role as leaders of the free world and demonstrate global leadership. And I find World War II to be the best perspective from a historical standpoint on how something that happened on the other side of the world negatively impacted us as a country.

You can follow Tyler on Linkedin.

Learn more about the USGLC’s Next Gen Global Leaders Network here.