As the new chief executive officer of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Allison Jaslow committed to tackling the thorny issues that face active-duty and former service members.
With a history of being "an organization willing to pick the tough fights," Jaslow said IAVA is poised to shape conversations about national defense, U.S. service members and veterans in the next decade.
"A lot of what I want to bring to the organization is that I want it to have that flare that was so foundational to IAVA," said Jaslow, a former Army captain and Iraq War veteran.
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Jaslow has a pedigree as a disrupter: a driving force behind a push to make the Department of Veterans Affairs' motto gender-inclusive; a veteran unafraid to call out Democrats or Republicans for using U.S. military members as political props; the first woman to lead IAVA; and the first openly gay head of a major veterans service organization.
She also has a strong sense of service and tradition -- setting goals for the organization, to include addressing the problems that plague troops and veterans like mental health, employment, sexual assault and suicide, but also to support post-9/11 veterans as they take on key leadership positions nationally.
Pointing to Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat and former Army veteran who once served on IAVA's board, and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, "it’s an exciting moment to be a veteran," Jaslow said during an interview with Military.com.
"More veterans are in Congress than there have been since 2015," she said. "I hope that Americans can look to many of our veteran leaders to help lead us forward at a very crucial time in our country."
A native of Arlington, Virginia, Jaslow said it had been her "dream" to become an Army officer after a visit in 8th grade to Fort Myer, a storied post of brick Victorian buildings that houses the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Army's ceremonial unit, The Old Guard.
She received an Army ROTC scholarship and attended a small military junior college in Missouri before transferring and earning a commission at the University of Central Missouri.
Since her sophomore year in college in 2001, she knew the Army she was joining was not the service of starched Battle Dress Uniforms and military parades she saw as a teen.
"9/11 happened, and the rest, they say, is history," Jaslow said.
Jaslow became a quartermaster and went to Iraq twice, first in 2004 when her job overseeing warehouses morphed into force protection, responsible for security logistics convoys near Baghdad, and again, for 15 months in 2007.
Her awards include a Bronze Star and two Army Commendation Medals.
Since leaving the Army, Jaslow has served on the staffs of several Democratic members of Congress, including former Virginia Sen. James Webb and former Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois.
She was at IAVA as chief of staff and executive director from 2016 to 2018. She served as executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for roughly a year before resigning amid concerns from members of the Congressional Black and Congressional Hispanic caucuses that Bustos, who chaired the committee at the time, had installed a staff, including Jaslow, that lacked diversity.
Since then, Jaslow has been a consultant and an adjunct professor of the practice of Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy.
IAVA founder Paul Rieckhoff said in a statement Monday that Jaslow "helped [IAVA] put women veterans on the map."
"She's a relentless fighter. And she's the right leader to guide IAVA into its 20th year of impact," said Rieckhoff, an IAVA board member and host of the Independent Americans podcast.
Jaslow takes over the CEO role at a time when the VA is expected to announce a motto change, nearly six years after IAVA launched the "She Who Borne the Battle" campaign, a play on the President Abraham Lincoln quote that is the basis for the VA motto, "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan."
She said the idea to target the motto was not to "take shots at a former president's words," but to demonstrate that in terms of culture, VA was failing to embrace a large part of the veterans community.
"It's the VA culture that could be improved for women veterans. Culture is all about the tone you set at the top," Jaslow said.
She will assume her new job March 15, taking over from Navy veteran Jeremy Butler, who has held the position since 2019.
"I would just encourage all of [veterans] to join us as members. You don't have to be a post-9/11 generation veteran to join IAVA, to join our movement to be leading in their communities," Jaslow said.
– Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com . Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime
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