2020 Tillman Scholar

Shelane Etchison

Harvard University
M.P.P., M.B.A.

“I aim to replace combat with commerce for the sake of lasting peace.”

In the wake of 9/11, Shelane felt compelled to serve in the armed forces. After graduating from the University of Central Florida, she commissioned as a military police officer in the U.S. Army.

Shelane first deployed to Ramadi, Iraq, as a platoon leader and company executive officer with the military police. When she returned from Iraq, Shelane learned that the U.S. Special Operations command had announced a pilot program that would assess and select women to deploy with the 75th Ranger Regiment and Navy SEALs on combat missions in Afghanistan. This special team was to gather critical information from Afghan women on Taliban and Al Qaida targets.

Believing in this mission and hungry for a challenge, Shelane was selected for the inaugural cohort of 20 women to deploy. Shelane served in Helmand with the Army Rangers and contributed vital information on high-value targets. Her personal contributions to this consequential program are profiled in the book Ashley’s War by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.

Motivated to continue serving in U.S. Special Operations Forces, Shelane applied for a highly-competitive special missions unit. Shelane successfully completed this unit’s multi-year selection and training process, and subsequently deployed to Syria, Turkey and Europe.

During her time in Syria working with the Kurdish female fighters combating the Islamic State, Shelane was inspired to leave the Army and pursue opportunities to help stabilize the region via economic development. She is currently a student at Harvard Business School and Kennedy School to build a base of knowledge and coalition of support for her endeavors to bring economic opportunity to conflict zones.