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WHF Profile: Jason Shell (2018-19)

My career as a Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officer took me to Iraq and Afghanistan, leading small teams and clearing roadside bombs and enemy weapons caches for special operations units. In that role, it became clear how much military success or failure depended on so many facets of government working together effectively. When a mentor from my years at the Naval Academy introduced me to the Fellowship, I thought it would be the ideal opportunity to learn and contribute to governing in the interest of national security and a more perfect union.

I was placed at the Department of State, where I had the opportunity to support diplomatic efforts to reduce malign Iranian influence across the Middle East and coordinate interagency efforts to develop and implement sanctions against Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. I got to be right in the middle of the thing I had wondered about, from a distance, earlier in my Navy career. 

But that was not even the best part of my experience as a White House Fellow. What the Fellowship calls the Education Program is the most remarkable leadership development experience you could ask for, a year spent engaging with American and global leaders in government, industry, science, and the arts. Exceeding even that was the opportunity to share that experience with my “fellow Fellows,” a diverse and inspiring group of Americans committed to serving their country from every walk of life. 

Since the Fellowship, I’ve had the opportunity to manage national intelligence programs while serving on the National Security Council staff and to develop the Navy’s budget on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations. I now have the great fortune to serve as the commanding officer of the 240 elite Sailors of EOD Mobile Unit FIVE in Guam, supporting SEVENTH Fleet and Special Operations Command Pacific across the Indo-Pacific region. 

My fellow Fellows remain a constant source of support and inspiration for me. The program lasts only a year, but the Fellowship endures long after. If you want to understand what it means to govern, lead change, and serve in our system of government, or if you feel compelled to jump into the arena, do it with the White House Fellowship. If you’re even considering applying, go for it. Even just assembling the application will make for productive reflection on how and where you want to contribute. Government service needs servant leaders, and the vision and values of the White House Fellows program.