2021 Tillman Scholar

Laura Jones

Air Force
Tufts University

“Through adversity I strive for a deeper understanding of the strategic problems facing this nation. As a  Ph.D. fellow I aim to move special operations strategy into the future.”

Inspired at a young age to pursue her dream of flight, Laura graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 2011. She used skills gained from her time as a cadet to thrive in pilot training, and was hand-picked to train as a first assignment instructor pilot, where as a lieutenant, Laura was responsible for training this nation’s newest Air Force aviators in the T-6 Texan II. After a tour as an instructor pilot, Laura crossed over to Air Force Special Operations as a CV-22 Osprey pilot.

As a special operations pilot, Laura became an expert in irregular warfare, personnel recovery, and various other special operations mission sets. Throughout her time as a pilot, Laura deployed as a liaison officer to French-speaking forces in Djibouti, filled a short-term position at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, and conducted U.S. Africa Command-sponsored research in Senegal. Laura also authored a RAND study proposal that was selected for funding and produced five volumes examining adversary disinformation campaigns on social media.

In 2020 Laura was selected by Air Force Special Operations Command to be the command’s first-ever directly sponsored  Ph.D. Fellow. After ten years of flying and being immersed in tactical special operations, Laura will pursue a  Ph.D. in international relations at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where she will study proxy conflict within modern great power competition. She hopes to use the expertise gained through her  Ph.D. to help drive special operations strategy into the future.