Special Tactics Airman leads outreach programs for COVID-19 relief

  • Published
  • By Lt. Alejandra Fontalvo
  • 24th Special Operations Wing

Capt. Jack Gouge, an Air Force special tactics officer assigned to the 17th Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Benning, Georgia, is leading outreach efforts to collect more than 1,000 pounds of food and supplies for COVID-19 relief in Puyallup, Washington.

He is currently serving as the director of Global Outreach and Community Impact at Bethany Baptist Church in Puyallup, Washington as part of the Department of Defense’s Career Skillbridge program.

Gouge, 30, joined the special tactics career field eight years ago with a strong desire to serve his nation and potentially save lives. When COVID-19 started spreading throughout the U.S., that same desire to serve sparked a long-term effort to support locals in need during the pandemic.

“In this position I’m responsible for overseeing our partnership with 18 missionaries in 11 countries as well as local non-profit partnerships and outreach initiatives in the community,” Gouge said. “Shortly after Washington instituted its ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ order in late March, we started a food drive to rally our congregation in support of families struggling financially as a result of business closures.”

As a special tactics officer, Gouge is trained in leading special tactics teams in preparation for worldwide contingency operations in hostile and austere environments, ranging from counterterrorism missions to global humanitarian assistance operations. His honed leadership abilities have also played a role in the success of his COVID-19 relief efforts.

“I chose to organize this food drive because there was an evident need for support of families struggling from food insecurity as a result of business closures during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gouge said. “I have been placed in a unique situation to be able to rally the congregation of Bethany Baptist Church in support of that need.”

In addition to collecting food and supplies for the local food bank, Gouge and his community have participated in initiatives to send gift baskets to healthcare workers at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, collect direct donations for families in need, as well as partnering with local elementary schools to provide food bags to youth suffering from food insecurity.

“It is outstanding seeing one of our members continue to find ways to support our communities through this extremely difficult period, arguably one of the most stressful situations families have encountered,” said Lt. Col. Travis Deutman, 17th STS commander. “Jack has always been a servant leader and I am not surprised he has stepped up to provide the critical supplies needed at food banks, shelters and hospitals.”

As Gouge begins his transition out of the Air Force, his goal is to continue to serve in the non-profit arena.

“I believe that it is important to serve others, especially during this time of need,” Gouge said. “I consider myself to be very fortunate to serve my church, the community and the Air Force.”

Special Tactics is the Air Force’s ground special operations force that leads global access, precision strike, personnel recovery and battlefield surgical operations.