For one security assistance officer, working in the legislative branch of the federal government is a significant detour in what might have been an otherwise commonplace career.
Capt. Waverly Washington, a technical assistance field team leader with Security Assistance Command’s Security Assistance Training Management Organization, was selected for a fellowship on Capitol Hill and an all-expense paid master’s degree from George Washington University.
While participating in the FY 2024 Army Congressional Fellowship Program, Washington will pursue a degree in legislative affairs, serve as a fellow for a congressman and serve on the Army staff in a congressional-related duty position.
The 44-month curriculum seeks service members who have demonstrated outstanding promotion potential. Participants will be assigned duties, such as drafting legislation and handling defense-related constituent issues. By gaining exposure to these various responsibilities and having opportunities to dive deeper into elective courses or independent studies, fellows gain a better understanding of the strategic relationships between Congress and the Army.
Washington was motivated in pursuing this opportunity so he can give that information back to Soldiers, helping them understand the “why” of what they do. He said he is most looking forward to earning a legislative affairs degree and taking a closer look at policy creation, civilian-military relationships, and the effect those relationships have on the military’s operational and strategic decisions.
The 34-year-old Washington is assigned to the Fort Bragg-based SATMO and serves as TAFT leader in Halmstad, Sweden. He has also served in Korea, Japan, Germany and most recently in Turkey as a NATO radar site commander.
“Being a part of SATMO has been a great and rewarding experience,” Washington said. “It is a small, professional organization that focuses on tactical training that lead to operational results and strategic impacts. It is the most unique unit that I have served in.”
His partnership-building assignment at SATMO is especially significant as Sweden is considered as the template for training Patriot missile system crews. The skills he learned at SATMO, along with extensive experience at each of his assignments, has prepared him for his upcoming fellowship.
“He’s going to have a better understanding of the foreign military sales process, a better understanding of the EUCOM environment and a better understanding of our ally and partner capabilities that will relieve pressure on the United States,” Patrick Macri, 3rd Regional Security Assistance Command senior security assistance training manager, said. “I think the skills he has learned and the challenges he has faced will better prepare him to advise and provide information wherever he is going. The cultural sensitivities with our allies and partners especially will help him understand better how they work.”
The Army Congressional Fellowship Program requires excellent speaking and writing skills. Applicants must submit an executive summary of the 2020 Army Posture Statement identifying key points for each of the Army’s priorities. In Washington’s writing samples, he highlighted how the majority of his assignments were outside of the continental United States and helped shape his critical thinking, interpersonal and communication skills.
“Training and advising with partners are the catalyst to my communication skills,” Washington said. “When working with partners, the words you use matter and how you say them matter as well. It is important to do your due diligence to understand partner nations not only professionally but culturally to create shared understanding.”
Macri noted that Washington has dealt with many engagements in different contexts that will continue to give him more experience working with senior leaders. He said Washington is very comfortable working with other organizations in the embassy. Every individual who has met or worked with Washington knows his interpersonal skills and strength when it comes to creating and maintaining strong connections.
Lt. Col. Daphne Mitchell-Wright, 3rd Regional Security Assistance Command commander, agrees.
“Relationship building is critical to the type of work he is doing and who he is working with,” Mitchell-Wright said. “He is seen as a trustworthy, notable subject matter expert in the area in which he’s working and will continue to build those relationships in EUCOM.”
As much as Washington is a mentor to those around him, he also said he sees a mentor in Maj. Gen. Sean Gainey to himself. Washington served with Gainey at the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command in Hawaii. To Washington, Gainey epitomizes professional excellence and what it means to care for Soldiers. He said Gainey was the first person to mention prestigious opportunities to him and give him the confidence that it was something he could compete for to make himself a better officer. Gainey’s advice stuck with Washington and propelled him to the congressional fellowship.
When asked the best advice for other Soldiers who want to apply for this fellowship, Washington said, “challenge yourself with difficult and distinctive assignments when presented the opportunity. It will help your professional development, and those experiences will make you a competitive candidate for any broadening opportunity.”
Washington’s supervisors and peers emphasized that he is a natural-born leader with a heart for service. His Security Assistance Command teammates expressed excitement for his journey in the Army Congressional Fellowship Program and wished him well in his future position of legislative liaison.