Air Force Captain Jessica Tait to Serve as Commencement Speaker
United States Air Force Captain Jessica L. Tait says she has "one of the coolest jobs in the Air Force.” And if you followed along in the news as the story of the heroic rescue of a junior soccer team from a cave in Thailand unfolded, you’d be hard-pressed to argue with her.
As the Public Affairs Plans Officer for United States Forces Korea of the US Army Garrison Humphreys, stationed in the Republic of Korea, Tait has opportunities to travel all over the world. “I learn new skill-sets such as journalistic writing, photography, and on-camera work. As an artist, there are days where I feel like I’m living my dream.”
Tait says she didn’t fully understand her path to the Air Force until she took the time to look back and reflect on it. Her father served in the Air Force for 22 years, but she says he never pushed or even mentioned the military as a possible career. It was through her own personal experiences that she slowly figured out who she is and what she wanted to be.
“I believe the constant exposure throughout my childhood shaped me in subtle ways. My decisions were always based on my desire to do something that would inspire positive change within myself and for the world,” she said.
In 2018, Tait and her unit at the time, the 353rd Special Operations Group, were personally selected by the government of Thailand to assist in the search and rescue of the junior soccer team trapped in the Tham Luang Cave system. The team was successfully rescued after being stranded for 18 days.
“I’m a pretty optimistic person to begin with, but my belief in the power of hope was solidified at the conclusion of the Tham Luang Cave rescue,” Tait says.
Tait showcased her calm demeanor under pressure serving as the US Government spokesperson for the unit, appearing in over 85 on-camera interviews with major international and local Thai news outlets and provided response to over 100 media queries.
“I know that people go their entire careers without having the experience I’ve had. I feel changed by this experience and I believe that every opportunity and challenge I’ve had during my entire life enabled me to succeed when I was thrown into the fire,” Tait says.
“I could talk endlessly about the operational things I learned or the deep discoveries about myself, but my biggest take-away was from the Thai people who poured out the most authentic display of hope I’ve ever seen in my life. I truly believe this is why the rescue had the happy ending that it did."
While many were questioning why the Air Force was assisting in a cave rescue, Tait says that Air Force Special Operations Command’s Special Tactics Airmen provide a multifaceted skillset that not only includes dive, rope, and confined space operations, but high-risk problem-solving and rapid response due to specialized aviation.
Tait soon became one of the most recognizable faces in Thailand as people came up to her at the cave site to tell me how her presence impacted them.
“I began to realize that I had an opportunity to share my story as an inspiration to young girls,” she says.
Tait was invited back to Bangkok for a women-empowerment program and helped create a #GirlPower video. “I jumped at the chance and made the #GirlPower video in addition to conducting media engagements and speaking at schools,” she says.
While in Buffalo, Tait will be continuing that empowerment as she speaks with students from Da Vinci High School and Girl Scout members on campus.
When she’s not on the clock, Tait likes to maintain a healthy life-work balance to “keep [her] loving relationships strong and personal enjoyments fulfilled,” she says.
“I wish I could simply travel the world and make beautiful art, but seriously that’s the dream! I invest my personal time into creative projects like painting, photography, and writing poetry. I’m also a pretty active girl who loves yoga, hiking, and dancing.”
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