My family’s story in Maryland began at the Port of Baltimore in 1899 with my great-great-grandfather. He went right to work at Maryland Steel (later Bethlehem Steel) and put my family on the path towards the American Dream, founding a family business, Baltimore Paint and Color Works. The company provided jobs to over 150 Marylanders and much-needed supplies to the U.S. Navy during WW2. My family never left Maryland. Today, my parents are dedicated public servants working for the state legal system.
Called to Service
My call to service begins on 9/11. I was a senior in high school and met with military recruiters that week – the first of many scares for my parents. I sensed my generation’s challenge lay in the Middle East and sought to understand the region’s languages, cultures, and politics.
In college, I majored in history and minored in Arabic, spending a semester in Egypt. After graduation from Duke University in 2006, I lived in Syria, where I taught English to Iraqi refugees and Syrians hoping to study in American universities. My Iraqi students blamed the U.S. government for the escalating violence in Iraq which cost many of them homes, family members, and – for some – nearly their lives. My students also held a deep respect for the American service members and diplomats they had encountered. I was against the invasion of Iraq and could see from Syria that it was going poorly. But my country needed people to step up and serve. I had a college degree, language skills, and cultural knowledge of the Arab world – who was I not to serve?
Six decades earlier, my grandfather, one of my heroes, faced a similar choice. The U.S. Navy offered him two options: obtain a MBA on the Navy’s dime or ship out to the Pacific. My grandfather knew if he deployed, some other guy – who hadn’t been home in years – could return to his family. My grandfather didn’t see it as much of a choice. He married his college sweetheart, took a train to San Francisco, and shipped out to the Pacific. I saw my decision in similar terms. I chose to join the Army and serve my country in a time of need.
I served for six years in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer, completing four combat deployments to Afghanistan and a year forward-stationed near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in South Korea as the sole intelligence officer for an infantry unit. I am a proud graduate of the US Army’s Ranger Course, the premier leadership school in the military. I am even more honored to have served in the 75th Ranger Regiment – the Army Rangers. Rangers lead in many key roles throughout the Special Operations Forces’ (SOF) community, and I am lucky to have served and led with men and women of this caliber.
As a Ranger, my four combat deployments in Afghanistan took place within a Joint Special Operations Task Force. I led intelligence teams whose work facilitated capture/kill missions of Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist leaders. I managed a lethal drone program. I ran human intelligence sources. Every day, my team and I made dozens of decisions whose outcomes carried life and death consequences for my fellow Rangers, our Afghan partners, and Afghan civilians.
My intelligence teams were diverse; we had members representing every military branch, civilians, young Rangers, and seasoned contractors. Those differences made our teams better: we all believed in the mission and valued the different approaches each of us brought to a common problem. And we got results. My leadership style evolved into a very simple philosophy: the mission comes first. Then you take care of your people. And your personal interests always come last.
After the military, I utilized the GI Bill to obtain a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University and went about adapting my leadership, analytical, and relationship-building skills to the business sector. For Control Risks Group, I helped clients make more informed decisions before major mergers or acquisitions. For Barclays Capital, I helped the bank root out instances of bank employees engaging in illicit or illegal activity. Most recently at Toffler Associates, a consultancy, I helped business leaders identify opportunities to create new jobs. I also led teams helping government executives identify ways to improve the efficiencies of their organizations.
I am walking away from my private sector experience with one fundamental lesson: leadership matters above all other factors, regardless of a company’s size, industry, or competition.
A New Call to Service
My wife, Jordan, and I are expecting our first child next year. We are an unusual couple in this era of vitriolic partisan politics: I am a Democrat, and she is a Republican.
When it comes to politics, we respect each other’s opinions and values. Jordan, a former police officer and Capitol Hill policy staffer, has taught me that Democrats and Republicans work together best when the former recognizes that the private sector – rather the federal government – often offers better solutions to solve the problems of everyday people. You know what we argue about? It isn’t the federal tax code. It’s how often I take out the trash.
Jordan and I know that the values we share in common are far more important than the issues on which we may disagree. We both believe strongly in the value of public service. We believe that nearly everyone is going through a challenge – a recent layoff, a medical condition, a loved one struggling with addiction, so we all have a responsibility to leave our communities better than when we found them. As expectant parents, we think it is critical to give our child better opportunities than were afforded us. When we look out at today’s political landscape, we don’t see these values represented. For those reasons, I feel called to service for the people of Maryland’s 1st Congressional District.