Protégés of LEAD Cohort 8
Originally from Northern Virginia, Bailey received her Master of Arts in American Government from Georgetown University. During her studies, Bailey worked for the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs. In this role, she handled issues regarding mental health, women’s health, and congressional oversight. Before Georgetown, Bailey graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and American Studies, as well as a double minor in National Security Studies and Spanish. She also was involved in the 2020 Iowa Caucuses and has worked in a congressional district office, in the Department of the Navy, and the Department of Homeland Security. Bailey serves as the Policy Manager for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, where she assists in the day-to-day administration of the Foundation’s programs. Additionally, she works on overall program planning and supports a wide range of different Foundation programs that aim to impact the lives of military & veteran caregivers nationwide.
Mike enlisted into the Marines in 1993 and later earned his commission as a Marine officer. He has graduated summa cum laude from Bridgewater College, as Distinguished Graduate from the Marine Corps’ Command and Staff College, and with two master’s degrees with honors from the University of Maryland and the Air Force’s War College in Alabama. He has commanded troops and worked in high-stakes staff positions from the trenches in combat to the highest levels of the Department of the Navy. He commanded Marines and multinational forces in high end combat operations in Ramadi, Iraq and has trained and operated closely with forces from all U.S. military services and numerous Middle Eastern, Central African, and Far Eastern countries. He earned the designation as a Joint Qualified Officer. As a staff officer he served as a Special Assistant / Military Aide to the 75th Secretary of the Navy and 32nd Under Secretary of the Navy, as the Head of Enlisted and Officer Plans and Programs for the Marine Corps, and as the Lead Planner for DoD’s Joint Task Force in the National Capital Region for providing support to the U.S. Secret Service and other interagency partners. When working in the Secretary of the Navy’s office, he also directed the Secretary’s Congressional Liaison Office and White House Liaison Office. Mike has had the fortune as a battalion commander to work directly for the current Commandant of the Marine Corps and was a close teammate to the 18th and 19th Sergeants Major of the Marine Corps earlier in his career. Mike is currently a chapter president and state council vice president in the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), a co-chair of the George Mason University Parent and Family Council, and founder and co-chair of the Wilson College Parents Council. Mike is a lifetime member of the American Legion, VFW, Marine Corps League and American Veterans (AmVets), and active member of Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) in central Maryland.
Abbygayle Brewington is a dedicated policy professional who has a special commitment to serving military members and their families. Abby currently serves as the Operations Manager for Congressman John Carter (TX-31), where she’s able to support fellow Texans from her hometown. She previously supported Congressman Kevin Brady (TX-08) in a variety of roles, where she most recently served as a Legislative Assistant. Abby is a Texas native who grew up in a large military community. She went on to receive her B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas A&M University. While studying at Texas A&M, she met her loving husband who currently serves as an Active-Duty service member. As a proud military spouse, Abby found a passion in building a strong community, connecting spouses to essential resources, and providing guidance on addressing emerging family issues. Prior to her time on Capitol Hill, Abby spent several years as a devoted educator in military communities. Her teaching career spanned across multiple military installations and included overseas service within the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA). During the height of the COVID-related school closures, she developed online curriculum, mentored educators transitioning to online teaching platforms, and assisted military families with the new adjustments. Through that experience, she gained deep insight into high-level policy decisions, and their impacts on families in the community. Her passion for education led her to completing a Masters Degree in Education Policy and being selected as the 2019 Teacher of the Year in Killeen ISD. Abby currently resides in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Aramis and beautiful Australian Shepherd named Bella. She enjoys playing her harp and finding new hiking trails.
A native of southwest Ohio, Nathan studied at the Middletown regional campus of Miami University before graduating from the United States Military Academy with a B.S. in Geography – Environmental Science. As an Army Aviator, he deployed to Iraq in 2005, then later served as a Stability Transition Team member in Iraq, as an operational planner in Afghanistan, and led the coordination of aerial flood relief operations in Pakistan. After Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, Nathan led a Multifunction Aviation Task Force in Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania as part of Atlantic Resolve’s deterrence operations. As a strategist, he later served as Chief of Joint & Army Experimentation and Chief of Joint & Multinational Wargaming at Army Futures Command. In parallel with his military service, he earned master’s degrees in Aeronautics and Space Studies (Embry-Riddle University), Administration (Central Michigan University), and Military Theater Operations (School of Advanced Military Studies). He holds a Graduate Certificate in Modeling and Simulations from Old Dominion University, where he is completing his last semester of coursework toward a Ph.D. in International Studies. He advocates for autism awareness, military career transition, military spouse employment, Ukraine assistance, and mentors European graduate students to improve transatlantic ties and cooperation.
Nick DiMichele served on active duty for nine years as an Infantryman. He held positions including, 249 SAW Gunner, 240 Gunner, Assistant Gunner, Fire Team Leader, Rifle Squad Leader, Weapons Squad Leader, and Platoon Sergeant. Nick’s assignments on active duty included various airborne units: 4/25 th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Alaska), 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Italy), and the 3 rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team in the 82 nd Airborne (North Carolina). He still serves in the military part-time as a National Guardsman. Nick’s decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Senior Parachutist Wings, Pathfinder Badge, and various unit and military awards. Nick has performed over 50 airborne jumps as a Paratrooper from various military aircraft, including the C-130, C-17, UH-60, and CH-47. His civilian experiences include interning on Capitol Hill for a member of Congress and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He also has worked for the U.S. Trade Representative in the Office of the World Trade Organization and Multilateral Affairs, and as a Defense Analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy (Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs). His current assignment is as a John S. McCain Strategic Defense Fellow for the Department of Defense in the Executive Services Directorate. His civilian education consists of a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from the University of Maryland Global Campus, a Master of International Policy and Practice from George Washington University, and a Master of Policy Management from Georgetown University.
Abi serves as the Program Coordinator at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation where she manages the Respite Relief Program and provides vital support for the Foundation’s community engagement programming. She collaborates across VSOs, the private sector, and government entities to support EDF programs and policy initiatives. Abi organizes and oversees logistics for Community Navigator Programs and the Dole Caregiver Fellows Program and assists across all programmatic teams. Prior to joining EDF, Abi researched and analyzed policy relating to veterans’ affairs and defense at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. She also built administrative experience at the American Association for Justice and worked on Ralph Northam’s 2017 campaign for governor. Originally from Portland, Maine, Abi is an alumnus of Pennsylvania State University, where she double majored in International Politics and African Studies. She is completing her master’s degree in Public Administration at George Mason University. Abi is proud to be from a family of service members: her mother and father were members of the U.S. Coast Guard, and her husband is on active duty in the Air Force.
Brian Harris is a communication professional who believes every organization has a story worth telling. After a decade working in hotel management, Brian commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army in 2009. His early assignments included time spent as a Platoon Leader, Executive Officer, and Support Operations Transportation Officer for 41st Fires Brigade. He spent one year on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt as the Force Movement Control Officer for the Multinational Force and Observers before attending the Defense Information School’s Public Affairs Qualification Course to become a Public Affairs Officer. As a PAO, Brian spent two years leading communication efforts for the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade. During his tenure with 16th CAB, the unit produced images and videos that were shared by senior Army and Department of Defense leaders and in major news publications around the world. One of the images Brian took of a training mission was selected as the Association of the U.S. Army Magazine Photo Contest 2016 grand prize winner. Brian’s time with 16th CAB culminated with a deployment to Afghanistan in 2017. After leaving 16th CAB, Brian spent three years as an Instructor of American Politics at the United States Military Academy - West Point. Brian taught Introduction to American Politics, course directed Mass Media and American Politics, and introduced and course directed African American Political Thought. He was selected as a recipient of the Department of Social Sciences’ Murdy Award for Teaching Excellence in 2020. Brian is currently an Army Training With Industry Fellow at Google. Working with the Grow With Google team at Google NYC, Brian is responsible for coordinating marketing for nonprofit partners who have received scholarship allocations from Google to help their clients pursue Google Career Certificates. Brian received his Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Stanford University and his Master of Public Policy from UCLA. He and his wife live in New York with two of their sons and their oldest son is a freshman at University of Colorado Boulder. When he isn’t creating themes, messages, and talking points, Brian loves to travel. Recent favorites include Ghana, Guatemala, and Acadia National Park.
Jason Knapp serves as the managing director of Capitol Energy Advocacy, a government relations consultancy focused on clean energy technologies and U.S. manufacturing. Previously, he served separately as the Vice President of Government Relations for KORE Power, Inc., a U.S. lithium battery manufacturer, and Unity Aluminum, Inc., an aluminum sheet manufacturing, and processing company. Jason also currently serves as an adjunct professor at American University where he teaches Government policy and procedures. Prior to retiring from the U.S. Navy, Jason served as an Executive Officer within the International Military Staff at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, as the Deputy Director of Congressional Affairs with U.S. European Command, and as a Defense Legislative Fellow working in a personal Congressional office on Capitol Hill. Jason began his Naval career as a Strike/Fighter pilot flying the F/A-18 Hornet, accumulating over 2500 hours in seven different aircraft, and more than 500 carrier landings on eleven aircraft carriers. His personal awards include the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal (Strike/Flight), Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal (2 awards), the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal (4 awards), and other various unit and campaign awards. Jason is a graduate of the University of Virginia with a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering and holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Florida. He is also an alumnus of the Naval War College, the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University, and the NATO Defence College in Rome. Jason lives outside of Washington, D.C., and is married to Jennifer Cash whom with they have three children, Claire (6), Aurelia (5), and Malachi (1).
Art is an Army artillery officer with the Office of the Chief Legislative Liaison assigned to Capitol Hill. Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, he received his undergraduate education in political science from Presbyterian College in 2011, commissioning through ROTC. Art’s military career has taken him to Oklahoma, Korea, Georgia, North Carolina, and now to Washington D.C., with a tour in the United Arab Emirates. He has worked extensively on near peer threats and theater security cooperation, and now focuses on legislative affairs. In 2021 he served as Congressman Tom Cole’s defense fellow, and recently transitioned into a liaison role for the Army representing the organization to congressional offices from much of the central United States. He holds advanced degrees in diplomacy from Norwich University, and legislative affairs from The George Washington University. In addition he is a member of the Military Leaders Program at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, a Public Policy Fellow at the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, and a National Security Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Art is married to his wife Cassandra, a fellow Army officer, and has one daughter, Emma, with a son on the way.
Chief Warrant Officer Justin Murphy currently serves as the Enterprise Operations Manager for the Criminal Law Division within the U.S. Army’s Office of The Judge Advocate General. In his current position, Justin is responsible for conducting functional analysis and strategic planning of criminal law-centric systems and operational design to refine and improve process efficiency and effectiveness. Justin initially enlisted in the Army in 2003 where he served as a paralegal before receiving his commission as a warrant officer in 2010. Throughout his 19-year military career, Justin has served in a variety of positions including deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Most recently, he served as the inaugural Chief Administrative Officer for the U.S. Army’s Office of Special Trial Counsel, a newly formed organization with a novel prosecutorial mission as mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022. Justin holds an undergraduate degree (B.S.) in Commerce and Business Administration from the University of Alabama. Additionally, he received a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California where he concurrently earned a Graduate Certificate in Public Policy.
Alex Ortiz has a diverse background in law, accounting, business, and the military. A native of Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, he is currently a 1L law student at the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico School of Law, a 2022 VFW-SVA Legislative Fellow, and a 2022 SVA Student Veteran of the year finalist. Before starting his legal studies, Alex served as a wheel vehicle mechanic who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division. Then, he transitioned to the private sector, where he worked at FLORES & FLORES Inc. He played an instrumental role in setting broad expansion goals, establishing policies and procedures to promote an inclusive company culture, and leading successful recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria. As a dedicated public servant, Alex's passion for service extends beyond his military service, and he is committed to positively impacting society and the community. He is a natural leader, team player, and problem solver committed to helping others reach their full potential. Furthermore, Alex is currently working on two pieces of legislation in Puerto Rico aimed at eliminating the taxation of veterans' retirement income and incentivizing veteran entrepreneurship on the island, demonstrating his dedication to the veteran community and his commitment to making a difference. He is a true leader, driven by a sense of purpose and a desire to impact the world positively.
Jason Pagel served in the US Marine Corps for 27 years, retiring as a Master Sergeant. During his Marine Corps career he served as an Infantryman, mixed martial arts instructor, Cyber Systems Network Specialist, recruiter, intelligence analyst, and counter terrorism/intelligence analyst trainer/instructor. Post military he ran a large construction company, and worked Current Operations at US Central Command. He currently works for the U.S. Senate Sergeant At Arms as the Senate Operations Center Manager. Jason has a M.A. in Homeland Security and a B.A. in Business Management/Criminal Justice. He is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Leadership. He is also a Florida Certified Building Contractor. Hobbies include restoring classic vehicles, and raising service dogs. Can often be found in the halls of Congress with his service dog, Skipper, who also serves as a therapy dog and can be petted. Jason has been married to his wife Pamela for over 20 years and has 2 daughters.
A native of Weston, MA, Tom Peacher earned his commission from the United States Naval Academy in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering. After commissioning, Tom completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) and SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) before serving as Assistant Officer in Charge of Foxtrot Platoon, SEAL Team TWO, where he deployed to South America and Europe. Tom separated from the Navy at the end of 2022 and currently works for RRAI, a technology company focused on autonomous vehicles for both government and commercial customers.
A native of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, CAPT Read entered the Navy in 1999 through the Health Services Collegiate Program. She is a graduate of St. Louis University, Southern College of Optometry, Naval Postgraduate School, and the Naval War College. CAPT Read has served in a variety of clinical, management and leadership positions within military medical treatment facilities (MTFs). In addition to MTFs, she’s been stationed with the Army, in a Tri-Service setting, overseas in Iceland, at Navy Medicine headquarters, and deployed to Kuwait. She was a Defense Legislative Fellow in 2017 serving in the office of Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. She then was selected as the Director, Health Affairs and Special Assistant Health Affairs to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. Currently, CAPT Read is the Director for Military Health System Governance in the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. CAPT Read’s personal awards include Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal (three gold stars), Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal (two gold stars), Army Commendation Medal, Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, and various other personal and unit awards.
After completing four years of Army ROTC, Cody commissioned into the US Army on active duty with assignment to the 101 st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He spent five years in light infantry and special operations organizations. During that time, he deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and supported a variety of other missions around the Middle East. After leaving active duty, he attended graduate school during which he worked for two think tanks as a non- resident fellow covering emerging technology and space issues and as a managing editor. He wrote his graduate thesis on US-China competition over critical space and renewable energy technologies. He currently works as a civilian strategic defense fellow with the US Space Force. Cody also transitioned to the US Army Reserve and now serves on the Army Staff. Cody holds an MA in International Relations and Strategic Studies from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a BA in International Relations and Middle East Studies from the University of North Georgia.
A Veteran of the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division, Kelley Rockwell has nearly a decade of diverse and unique experience in audits, inspections, and process improvements. After hanging up her Crew Chief Wings (Aircrew Badge) at Fort Drum, NY, she remained true to her Army roots and pivoted from a career in unmanned aviation systems (UAS) into business enterprise improvement, continuing to support the Army. A cross-functional team leader, Kelley has implemented and enhanced processes at Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management & Comptroller) (ASA (FM&C)), Office of the Chief, Army Reserve (OCAR), US Army Reserve Command (USARC), and Defense Finance & Accounting Service (DFAS). Currently a manager at EY, one of the “Big 4” professional services firms, Kelley is an active advocate for the Veteran and Military Spouse community, leading the Government & Public Sector (GPS) Veteran’s Network Career Development Pillar, helping EY new hires integrate and thrive in their careers at EY. She has spoken on multiple panels and podcasts, sharing her experiences with professionals across America and at Student Veterans of America (SVA) National Convention NatCon 2022. Additionally, Kelley is the Executive Director of the DC Chapter of USA Cares, a nationwide non-profit that provides financial and advocacy assistance to post-9/11 active-duty US military service personnel, Veterans and their families, preventing factors that can contribute to Veteran suicide. She is actively growing the DC chapter to raise awareness and continue the USA Cares mission. Kelley is a Certified Defense Finance Manager (CDFM) from American Society of Military Comptrollers (ASMC), and has earned a Master of Science in Industrial & Organizational (I/O) Psychology, a graduate certificate in I/O Psychology from Northcentral University, a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from Mercer University, and an Associates of Applied Science in Unmanned Aviation Systems from Cochise College. A mother to two daughters (and two fur-babies), she strives to set a positive example for the next generation of women leaders.
A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Master Sergeant Chris Sloan enlisted in the Army in 1998 and has spent most of his career in special operations as a psychological operations noncommissioned officer. Chris has held a variety of leadership and staff roles on multiple deployments to Central, South, and East Asia, mostly in Joint and Interagency elements and commands, and served as a course manager and chief instructor at the U.S. Army JFK Special Warfare Center and School. Chris has earned the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service (2nd award), Joint Commendation and Achievement (2), and the Army Commendation (6) and Achievement (6) Medals, as well as numerous service and campaign medals and ribbons, the Combat Action Badge, Instructor Badge, Parachutist Badge, foreign parachutist wings from Germany, Netherlands, and Poland, and the Major General Robert A. McClure Silver Medallion. He is currently preparing to retire and looking forward to his next chapter and spending more time with his family and friends. Chris holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Norwich University, a graduate certificate in Strategic Communications from Appalachian State University, and a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies from the University of Maryland-University College. He also completed a language immersion program at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. In addition to his military service, Chris serves the community as the Chapter Captain of Team Red, White & Blue-Fayetteville, President of the Norwich University Club of Fayetteville, and the Secretary of the Psychological Operations Regimental Association-Fort Bragg Chapter. He is also a life member and regular participant in the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Association of the United States Army.