Notes from the field: Spirit of America’s newest Middle East project manager

Dear SoA supporters,

My name is Joshua Brandon and I’m Spirit of America’s newest Middle East project manager. Having recently joined the team in January, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and share a bit of the work I’ve already had the opportunity to do.

The past four months have been a fantastic introduction to the good work SoA performs on a daily basis across the globe in support of our diplomats and military service members. I’ve worked in five countries and supported work in seven across the Middle East and Central Asia. These include: educational assistance projects in Ayn Issa and Manbij and support for first responders in Raqqa, Syria; a pilot project to further modernize the Peshmerga into a professional fighting force and support for a Peshmerga K9 unit working to eradicate explosive remnants of war in Iraq; work with US forces combating violent state and non-state actors in Lebanon, Bahrain, and Yemen; and assistance for Department of State soft power projects like the American Spaces Program that directly impact violent extremism and great power competition in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

SoA’s Zack Bazzi and I oversee the distribution of support for the Ministry of Peshmerga K9 Unit in cooperation with the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq

The projects are fascinating, but interacting with the people I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside is by far the most rewarding aspect of my job. I’ve worked with partners ranging from ambassadors, generals, and ministers, to soldiers, NGO workers, junior diplomats, and student volunteers. I’ve been most inspired by the rank and file, everyday people who take it upon themselves to tackle the most difficult of problems in the world’s most complex environments. People like: “Lady Bomb” in Uzbekistan who is leading a herculean effort to counter local extremism amongst vulnerable migrant worker populations and to reintegrate and return former ISIS women and children; a Peshmerga colonel in Erbil who is leading systematic reforms that will allow the Peshmerga to transition from a political militia to a legitimate, modern fighting force; or a young US Army Staff Sergeant in Syria whose vision and hard work in training and equipping first responders has already saved lives. In my opinion, it’s SoA’s rapid support to these visionary, ground level leaders who execute creative, locally generated solutions to difficult and dangerous problems that is one of the organization’s greatest strengths.

Demand for SoA’s unique brand of assistance shows no signs of slowing down this summer. We’re working alongside soldiers, diplomats, partner forces, and local NGOs in the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, countering violent extremism, and other key issues across the Middle East and Central Asia. I look forward to updating you as to how your support is positively impacting these issues and the people at the center of them in the months to come.

Best,
Joshua Brandon

Exploring the Tajik countryside in between projects in Tajikistan

Joshua Brandon joined Spirit of America in January 2019 as the Middle East Project Manager. Prior to Spirit of America, he served as a US Army infantry officer to include two Iraq tours with the 101st Airborne Division (2003, 2006) and one with 3-2 Stryker Brigade (2009) where he was awarded the Silver Star and two Bronze Stars with valor devices.

After 10 years of service, Joshua transitioned from the Army to the Sierra Club where he worked on veteran mental health and conservation issues. He later left the club to work as an independent consultant in a diverse range of fields to include conservation and wildlife trafficking, veteran mental health research at the University of Washington, tactical mission command training, and adventure history as a sponsored athlete ambassador for Outdoor Research.

Joshua attended The Citadel where he earned a bachelors of arts in history. He earned his master’s degree in international affairs from the University of Washington with an emphasis on conflict and development.

Finding time to get after it in between trips to the Middle East and Central Asia

Joshua Brandon is Spirit of America’s Middle East regional program director.

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No endorsement of Spirit of America by the US Department of Defense, Department of State, or US personnel is intended or implied.