INSA SkillBridge Fellowship

INSA Welcomes First DoD SkillBridge Fellow, Capt Rachel Thompson, in Coordination with the University of Arizona Applied Research Corporation (UA-ARC)

 

Last fall, the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) welcomed its first SkillBridge Fellow, Capt Rachel Thompson, USAF. Capt Thompson is an Active-Duty U.S. Air Force officer transitioning from military to civilian life with plans to pursue a career in national security. INSA is an association of federal contractors that support the defense and intelligence communities.

Through the DoD SkillBridge program, Active-Duty officers such as Rachel are authorized up to six months of permissive leave, while receiving full military benefits, to work with industry partners to gain both experience and training. In coordination with the UA-ARC SkillBridge Gateway Program, Rachel is conducting her fellowship with INSA to gain insight into intelligence and national security priorities including cybersecurity, technology innovation, security clearance reform, and the evolving space domain. UA-ARC’s SkillBridge Program is designed to provide a Gateway for transitioning veterans in which they gain experience in a career field of their choosing while receiving guidance and coaching from UA-ARC staff. In addition to supporting INSA’s public-private collaboration efforts from its headquarters in Arlington, VA, Rachel is also receiving remote mentorship through her transition from UA-ARC leaders back in Tucson, AZ.

INSA recently became a DoD-authorized SkillBridge provider and plans to continue hosting SkillBridge fellows in the future.

Q&A with DOD SkillBridge Fellow Capt Rachel Thompson, USAF

Q:  What did you do in the military and why did you choose to undertake a SkillBridge fellowship?

A:  In the Air Force, I served in an operations support role and received technical training on national security issues and tactical support to the warfighter. My assignments included two deployments to East Africa, as well as an assignment supporting remotely piloted aircraft combat missions. I applied to the SkillBridge program to gain experience working with industry to prepare me for my transition and to find mentors to help guide me through my discernment process.

Q:  What do you want to do when you leave active duty?

A:  I hope to work on national security issues from a policy perspective, with a focus on climate security.  Climate change will have a wide range of impacts on U.S. national security, as the Intelligence Community highlighted in the unclassified National Intelligence Estimate it released in October 2021.  A warming planet will place strains on critical resources like water, energy, and arable land, which will lead to geopolitical tensions, economic crises, and large-scale migration around the world. I would like to find solutions for the challenges these developments will pose to U.S. diplomatic, economic, and military interests. 

Q:  What do you do at INSA?

A:  I have the unique opportunity to learn about national security and intelligence policy issues from both government officials and the industry experts who support them. I support INSA’s eight policy councils, which address the business of the Intelligence Community and examine issues like security clearance reform, cybersecurity strategies, and management of counterintelligence risks and insider threats.  I edit and publish white papers that advocate for greater government efficiency, as well as facilitate outreach to industry and government partners. I recently drafted briefing materials for the INSA Chairman – the former director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) – to prep her for moderated discussions with the NSA Director and CYBERCOM Commander, GEN Paul Nakasone, USA, and with Chief of Space Operations Gen John Raymond, USAF. I also develop and facilitate INSA events, including a classified discussion between government and industry in the Fort Meade area and INSA’s Annual Achievement Awards Ceremony, which will honor six outstanding early- and mid-career professionals in the defense, intelligence, and homeland security arenas and feature keynote remarks from Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director LTG Scott Berrier, USA.

Q:  What will you learn at INSA that will help you transition to a civilian career?

A:  I have made incredible career connections during my time at INSA that have helped inform my job search. Having worked on tactical intelligence during active-duty deployments, I now have a better sense of how strategic intelligence and policy issues are addressed at the highest levels of government.  Also, my experience with industry has opened my eyes to new opportunities I didn’t know existed. Contractors do almost all the things that civilian government employees do, so it’s possible to continue contributing to the national security mission by working for a private company. I wasn’t aware of those civilian opportunities before coming to INSA.

Q:  What are your top takeaways from your INSA experience so far?

A:  My top takeaways would be: 1) networking is important and takes practice; 2) having work experience in both government and industry is extremely valuable; and 3) our nation needs talented, young professionals to serve in the intelligence and national security sectors to prepare for future threats and challenges.

Q:  Would you recommend INSA to a future SkillBridge fellow?

A:  Absolutely! INSA is the best place for a transitioning servicemember interested in continuing their career in the national security sector. Not only will you gain experience for your next job, develop an understanding of the civilian job market, and build a terrific network, but you will also find an organization that you’ll want to be a part of for the rest of your career. INSA hosts conferences, dinners, and other events with defense and intelligence leaders from both government and industry, and many INSA alumni stay actively engaged.

 

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For information about the DOD SkillBridge Program, go to https://skillbridge.osd.mil/.

For information about INSA, go to https://INSAonline.org.

The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

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