Protégés of LEAD Cohort 5
A native Texan, military spouse, and Certified Project Director, Frances Arias currently serves as the Director of Operations for the Green Beret Foundation. Deeply passionate about veterans’ issues, this commitment to service is reflected in her involvement with multiple programs and organizations devoted to empowering active duty, transitioning, separated, and retired veterans and their spouses with the tools and resources necessary to enable success at every stage of the servicemember’s life cycle. Previously, Frances has supported the Green Beret Foundation as an Ambassador and served on the board of Racing for Valor; today, she is active in organizations including Women in International Security, Mind Science Foundation, The OSS Society, NDIA Women in Defense, Global SOF Foundation, Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, #NatSecGirlSquad, and the Society for Military History. An advisor for the Special Forces Neurosurgery Collaborative and mentor for Girl Security, Frances has recently also earned the distinction of becoming a member of the Forbes Nonprofit Council. Frances holds a B.A. in Political Science from McMurry University and Master's Degrees from American Military University in Asymmetrical Warfare and Strategic Intelligence. Prior to joining forces with the Green Beret Foundation, Frances worked at the George Washington University Law School, where she worked in a supportive role to eight professors.
Jeremy Bedford enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard at the age of 17. After serving as an enlisted Soldier for 10 years, Jeremy commissioned into the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps. After transferring into the District of Columbia Army National Guard, Jeremy served as an Investigating Officer with the National Guard Bureau, Office of Complex Investigations where he investigated allegations of sexual assault in the military and as a Witness Coordinator with the Office of Military Commissions. Most recently, Major Bedford earned his L.L.M. Degree from The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School while serving on an active-duty Army tour. In his civilian career, Jeremy possesses extensive experience working in the field of veterans’ law, including interning at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals while in law school, working as an attorney with the Vietnam Veterans of America, working as an attorney with The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program, and working as a Staff Attorney with The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Jeremy has a BA from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law, and a L.L.M. in Military Law from The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School. Mr. Bedford has also published numerous scholarly articles on veterans’ related issues including his most recent article Other than Honorable Discharges; Unfair and Unjust Life Sentences of Decreased Earning Capacity, 6 U. Pa. J. L. & Pub. Affairs (forthcoming 2021).
Dr. Jolene Caro is a Research Scientist and the Intelligence lead at Lockheed Martin Corporate Engineering Technology & Operations (CETO), Mission Development and Integration (MDI). The mission of CETO MDI is to identify customer mission needs and gaps, develop collaborative technologies, enhance mission performance, and coordinate business opportunities across National Intelligence Community, Department of Defense, and International Government customers. Prior to this, Dr. Caro was the National Security Agency’s (NSA) liaison for the Cryptologic Services Group (CSG) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Military Command Center. Dr. Caro directed intelligence analysis and coordinated production and interdisciplinary campaigns between NSA and the Joint Staff. As the Principle Intelligence Support Advisor, she supervised comprehensive production affiliated with foreign military capabilities and intentions as contributions to U.S. strategy, policy, and military plans and operations at national and theater levels. Dr. Caro received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Biology from the University of Maryland University College European Division. She received her master’s in Forensic Psychology and her Ph.D. in International Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Dr. Caro’s dissertation research was conducted in South Africa with multiple facilities and was titled, “Compassion Fatigue in Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Workers in South Africa.” In addition to her primary research questions, Dr. Caro also found that poaching cartels are operated similarly to drug cartels and terrorist organizations.
As President of the MyAdvisor Division, Jennifer implements and directs proactive care coordination programs for Three Wire Systems. In her current role, she improves access to reintegration services in the areas of wellness, behavioral health, navigational advocacy, financial and career transition coaching. Most recently, Jennifer was appointed to the P.A. State Board for Vocational Rehabilitation and to the Yellow Ribbon Fund Board of Directors. She serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association for Rural Mental Health, where she is also the former president, and Jennifer is a member of the Veterans Community Initiatives, WETA Public Media Mental Health, Mental Health Technology Transfer Center, AHA Rural Leadership Advisory Task Force, and the VA Community Care Board for Central PA. Jennifer was a 2019 Navy Embark Participant aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and received the 2019 Service to the Citizen Award- Champion of Change as part of National Public Service Week. Jennifer led MyAdvisor to win the 2020 Excellence in Business (Large) for Cambria County Pennsylvania and the 2021 American Association of Suicidology Crisis Center of the Year.
Edward Driko Parsons
A native of North Carolina, Driko entered into the United States Marine Corps in 1992 and retired after 28 years of honorable and faithful service. He has served as an infantryman, Drill Instructor, Deputy Director of one of the Marine Corps’ Noncommissoned Officers Academies, Embedded Combat Advisor, and senior enlisted advisor across the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. Driko’s last assignment was as the senior enlisted advisor for Warrior Care Policies for the Marine Corps. As a lifelong learner, Driko earned his BA in Intelligence Studies from American Military University, MA in Strategic Communication and Leadership from Seton Hall University, and is currently a doctoral candidate studying Interdisciplinary Leadership at Creighton University. Driko is an accomplished warfighter and holds designations as a parachutist and an aviation combat air-crewman. A highly decorated combat Marine Corps veteran, Driko was awarded the Legion of Merit Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Air Medal (Strike/Flight Award), and the Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon.
A 2010 graduate of the United States Military Academy, Ashley Ehasz served in the U.S. Army as an AH-64D Apache Longbow pilot. Upon commissioning, Ashley was stationed as an aviation platoon leader with 1-501st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion in Fort Bliss, Texas, deploying to both Kuwait and Iraq with the unit. After completing the Captain’s Career Course in 2016, Ashley went on to command two troops with the 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment in Fort Riley, Kansas. Following her command time, Ashley transitioned out of service in 2018 in order to attend graduate school. While a master’s student at the University of Oxford, Ashley focused her research on human rights and conflict in Latin America. Most notably, she published her thesis, entitled “Political Reincorporation of Female FARC-EP Ex-Combatants: The Creation of Victims, Heroes, and Threats,” in the spring 2020 issue of the Cornell International Affairs Review. Since graduating in July 2020, Ashley served as a COVID-19 policy writer and CARES Act project coordinator for Marion County, Florida. She now lives in Washington, D.C., and is involved in governmental and foreign affairs.
Anthony T. Gitalado is a U.S. Army combat veteran with experience as a public servant for over 15 years in advising military, governmental, and policymakers. He served for 5 years in the U.S. Army as an Infantry and scout squad leader on active duty and with the Virginia Army National Guard, including a combat tour to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He has earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from Virginia State University, Petersburg, Virginia and enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after graduation. He enlisted as an Infantryman and served a combat deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with the 1st Infantry Division. After transitioning from military service, he went to work as a contractor for the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Joint Staff Intelligence (J2). He later accepted a position with the Internal Revenue Service in Cybersecurity. Anthony has continued his education by completing his Graduate Certificate in Project Management at George Washington University, National Security Fellow, and Veteran's Program in Politics and Civic Engagement at Syracuse Maxwell School, Senior Executive in National and International Security Program, Senior Executive Fellow Program, and earned an Executive Certificate in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and pursuing a Certificate in Business Excellence at Columbia Business School. Anthony also advises the Secretary of the Army in their launch of the JROTC Cyber Pilot program. He has been appointed by the last two governors of Virginia to the Virginia Asian Americans Advisory board and Virginia Services Veteran foundation. Anthony is considered an emerging National Security and Cybersecurity policy subject matter expert. He has also started up two disabled Veteran-owned businesses in Virginia and New York, calling this blend "Vetreprenuer."
Natasha Harth is the VP of Business Development & Strategic Partnerships at PCSgrades. In her role, she collaborates with the DoD and other support organizations to support the mission of making military relocations better for service members and their families. She is a founding member and research analyst for the USMC PCS advisory council with Headquarters Marine Corps and US Transportation Command. Harth is also a sought-after public speaker, published author, and contributor to multiple online publications. Harth obtained her MA in Public Leadership through the University of San Francisco as a Newmark Fellow. The Virginia native has relocated coast to coast, as well as a brief stint in Okinawa, Japan to accompany her active-duty Marine. Through her travels, she learned first-hand the challenges that career-seeking military spouses and transitioning service members face, but always found a way to turn these challenges into opportunities. As a true servant-leader, Harth’s volunteer history is vast, to include involvement from the individual unit level on through serving in advisory roles on a global scale. Her specific focus and passion lies in financial readiness and economic security. She advocates for access to financial education, quality jobs, and removing the stigma of pursuing trade-skilled labor as a career option. Recognizing her lifetime of service to others, Natasha was named the 2016 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year; elevating her role to serve on behalf of US military families across the globe. Her personal and professional activities have received national attention on Good Morning America and numerous other national publications.
A native from San Diego, California, Colonel (r) John "Skip" Henley earned his commission from Oklahoma State University ROTC in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science in Management. In his last assignment, John served as the Division Chief of Air Force Weapons Programs in Air Force Legislative Liaison where he provided advice and guidance for the National Defense Authorization Act, and prepared senior Air Force leaders for Congressional engagements. He was a career Air Force Space officer with assignments at the National Reconnaissance Office, the Joint Staff and served as the Squadron Commander for the 2d Space Warning Squadron. He is the current Vice President for National Security Space for Galapagos Federal Systems where he supports and advises the Space Rapid Capabilities Office on strategies, plans, and operational requirements for national security space programs. John holds graduate degrees from the Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy, National Military Intelligence College, and was a 2015 MIT National Defense Fellow.
Purple Heart recipient, Iraq War veteran, and financial services risk management professional, Michael Lamon is grateful to be selected for the HillVets LEAD Cohort 5. Michael is a former Presidential Management Fellow and Ding Fellow at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, where he graduated with a Master of Public Administration in International Economic Policy and Management. After serving over a decade in the public sector and the military, Michael solved large-scale problems as a Manager in EY’s Financial Services Organization (FSO). At EY, Michael also co-led the FSO’s Veterans Network and led Communications for the National Veterans Network. Passionate about servant leadership, Michael was a Board member for the Wounded Warriors Guide Service and is the founder of The Apollo Fund, a non-profit aimed at bringing classical music into the classroom and providing paid opportunities to musicians. Currently a Regulatory and Policy Affairs Vice President at Wells Fargo, Michael resides in New York City with his lovely opera singing wife, Julia, and his two beautiful children, Livia and Titus. In addition to obtaining a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University, Michael also earned a Master of Arts in Leadership and Management from Concordia University and a Bachelor of Music from Concordia College. Michael’s military awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal (with 2 stars), Army Meritorious Unit Citation, Navy Unit Commendation, and various other campaign and service awards.
Lieutenant Sean McDonald is an active duty Naval Officer, currently serving as the Defense Fellow for Senator Angus King of Maine. A native of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, he earned his commission from the United States Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science in 2014. Following his commissioning, Sean reported to Pensacola, Florida for initial flight training, and was designated a Naval Aviator in June of 2016. After earning his Wings of Gold as a helicopter pilot, he reported to the HSM-75 Wolf Pack at Naval Air Station North Island to fly the MH-60R. During his time with the Wolf Pack, he completed two operational deployments to both the Fifth and Seventh Fleet Areas of Responsibility onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), USS Kidd (DDG-100), and USS Nimitz (CVN-68). Sean has flown missions in support of numerous joint military exercises and operations, including Northern Edge, Green Flag, Northern Strike, Operation Inherent Resolve, and numerous Freedom of Navigation operations throughout the South China Sea. Lieutenant McDonald’s personal awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal and multiple unit and service awards. He currently resides in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Melendez is a federal civil service employee for the U.S. Department of Defense (U.S. Navy) and was a member of the staff at the Submarine Escape and Rescue Program Office (PMS391) in Washington, D.C. His military and civilian experience with the Defense Department spans 24 years. During his naval career, he completed the Naval Nuclear Power Training program and then served onboard the USS MAINE (SSBN 741) followed by the USS VELLA GULF (CG 72) as the Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer. Following his career at sea, Mr. Melendez expanded his support for the Defense Department as a Program Manager for various U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, and U.S. Air Force programs while working as an executive at Dell Services Federal Government. He saved the U.S. Army millions of dollars by leading a team in updating U.S. Army manpower and resource applications while continuing to provide technical support to the Naval Sea Systems (NAVSEA) Command Undersea Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical Engineering Program Office. In 2015, Mr. Melendez joined the NAVSEA Command PMS391 Program Office as the Global Rescue Seat Certification Program/Financial Manager. There he established and forged foreign nation partnerships with several countries to increase global submarine rescue capability through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Case development, rescue seat certification technical support, and rescue seat design support. He has led over 50 successful rescue seat certification efforts and provided guidance on the U.S. rescue seat certification process to over 25 countries. He worked with partner nations in acquisition of the REV 1 Transfer Under Pressure (TUP) SITS in order to increase the U.S. Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System (SRDRS) transportability and interoperability across the globe. Mr. Melendez is currently a DoD Legislative Fellow in Congressman Jared Golden’s Office (ME-2). Mr. Melendez attended the University of New Mexico and Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law. He is also currently an attorney in both Washington, D.C. and the State of Maryland.
As the Policy Associate for Student Veterans of America (SVA), Justin advocates on behalf of student veterans, military-connected students, and their families to empower them to, through, and beyond higher education. His portfolio is focused on veterans’ affairs and higher education issues, helping the Government Affairs department push for increased protections for student veterans and military- connected students using their hard-earned Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits. He has testified in front of and authored several statements for the record for Congress advocating for proactive and common-sense solutions to improve student outcomes. Justin comes from a long line of veterans across all major branches of service, and he holds degrees from Wake Forest University and Appalachian State University.
Gunnery Sergeant Moser enlisted as an infantryman in June 2002. Upon completion of entry level training, he received orders to 1 st Battalion, 7 th Marines. He served in the opening phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom and twice on the Syrian border. During these three deployments, he served as a Rifleman, Fireteam Leader, Squad Leader, and Platoon Guide. In 2006, he received orders to the School of Infantry as a Training NCO. Gunnery Sergeant Moser executed orders to 3 rd Battalion, 7 th Marines in 2009. He deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom two times as a Squad Leader and Platoon Sergeant in the Marjah and Sangin districts of Helmand province. Upon return from Afghanistan, Gunnery Sergeant Moser reported to The Basic School in Quantico, VA. His duties there included Basic Officer Course Platoon Advisor and Chief Instructor, Infantry Weapons Officer Course. In December 2015, he reported to 3 rd Battalion 1 st Marines and served as the 81mm Mortar Section Leader and Platoon Sergeant, and Rifle Company Gunnery Sergeant as part of the Forward Deployed Battalion-West 2-16 and 13 th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Upon his return from the 13 th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Gunnery Sergeant Moser was selected for the Marine Corps Congressional Fellowship Program. He worked for Senator Joseph Manchin III (D-WV) from January 2020 to January 2021. Upon successful completion of his fellowship, he assumed his current duties as the Congressional Liaison and Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. Gunnery Sergeant Moser graduated Summa Cum Laude from Ashford University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Government. He is the father of one son and two daughters.
Mary Kate Soliva
Mary Kate Soliva is a Special Operations service member with a strong advocacy to improve care for veterans, women, and survivors of human trafficking. Mary Kate served as a health care specialist at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. During that time, she volunteered with the Frederick County Commission for Women to help establish a Human Trafficking Task Force, enhancing efforts in the local community. She successfully completed the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School and now serves in Psychological Operations with Tagalog as her assigned language. She supported a mission in South Korea and deployed to the Philippines where she led a Women in Law Enforcement Symposium and implemented a mentorship program between local law enforcement and juveniles. Mary Kate has a BS and MS in Public Administration from the University of Guam where she also interned for Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr. She is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Criminal Justice program at Saint Leo University, Homeland Security track. While in graduate school, she focused her studies on human trafficking in Guam and Micronesia. She is a public speaker and has trained hundreds of service members and civilians on the signs and impact of human trafficking. Her efforts include working with local policy makers, Government agencies, host nation leaders, and non-profit organizations to change policy and impact change. Mary Kate is the International Services Director of the Rotary e-Club of Pago Bay Guam. She is relocating to Maryland later this year after 11 years of honorable service.
Iraq war veteran of the U.S Army and Georgia Army National Guard Veteran, Takosha Swan was appointed by the Governor of Georgia in 2019 for a 7-year term as one of 7 board members to the Georgia Department of Veterans Service board, where she serves over 700,000 veterans. In 2020, she was elected to serve as secretary of the Georgia Department of Veterans Service Board. She is also a lead team member on the Governor’s Challenge team to prevent suicide amongst veterans, servicemembers and their families. Takosha is the composer and singer of “The Veteran Anthem,” and the small business owner of Business Women Consulting and Veteran’s Door, an online servicemember and veteran community, in which she has teamed up with the state of Georgia to use as a state resource site for Georgia veterans. She has attained a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s in business administration. Swan is also the military spouse of a 23-year tenured First Sergeant.
Jason works for the US Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts as an Economist and Transportation Planner. His work assists various domestic and international agencies on multidisciplinary and multimodal innovative solutions for transportation systems. His career continues years of public service starting with his enlistment in the US Marine Corp in 2006. He served with the 1st Battalion 8th Marine Regiment deploying to Al Anbar Province, Iraq (2007 and 2009) as well as Helmand Province, Afghanistan (2010) as an infantry non-commissioned officer. After military service he would continue serving others through various roles in non-profit work and politics. Some of his proudest work is in disaster relief volunteering with Team Rubicon to assist communities ranging from the Front Range of Colorado to the island of Great Abaco, Bahamas. Jason has a bachelors in both Economics and Political Science from Colorado State University and a Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
A native of Rochester, New York, Ethan Whiting has worked as a defense and foreign policy legislative correspondent for Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) since November 2020. Prior to this, Mr. Whiting served as a tank platoon leader with the North Carolina Army National Guard deploying to Jordan, Syria, and Kuwait in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve. He spent two years working for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) congressional relations team, and has interned with several Capitol Hill committees including the House Armed Services and Senate Budget Committees. Commissioning from Georgetown University’s Army ROTC program in 2018, Mr. Whiting completed his undergraduate degree in political science and his masters in international relations with a focus on great power competition from American University.