Thanks to movies and TV shows we might easily imagine what the world of counter intelligence and counter terrorism looks like: A dark room full of video monitors with highly trained intelligence analysts quietly watching in real-time their strategies unfold two continents away.
Jolene Caro, an international psychology student at the Washington, D.C. Campus, actually knows what that world looks like. She’s spent most of her 20-year Air Force career in the counter terrorism trenches. And while her day-to-day life as an intelligence analyst isn’t necessarily filled with the excitement of life-or-death challenges – it is a world that has allowed her to use her specialized skills to keep our world safe.
Most days, she says, the job involves reviewing and analyzing data and preparing reports, like mapping out terrorist networks. But the real-life chess game, as she calls it, has never been more important.
“I enjoy knowing I am making a difference. There’s one less terrorist because of me. There were possible acts of terrorism that we prevented. There’s many that do happen but people don’t know how many more we stopped and I like being a part of that.”
The other reason the Hawaii native loves her job are the people she works with. “Have you ever worked with people who are really, really smart? Intel people are a little different but they are incredibly smart. Some of the greatest minds in the world, the most strategic minds in the world, work in intel and you get to work with them.”
Jolene is currently making the transition from her military job to civilian life. She’s been going out on job interviews eager to put her skills and interests to the test in a new environment. Her job prospects range from the corporate to the nonprofit sector. And regardless of the career direction she chooses, Jolene knows working with nonprofits, perhaps even starting her own, is in the cards.
Her love of animals has taken her around the world and at some point, she says, it will become a focal point of her work as a psychologist. Jolene has invested considerable time and energy working with wildlife protection and rescue workers investigating “compassion fatigue” factors which contributes to a high rate of burnout.
“These people become affected by what happens to these animals. You must love them to do the work and seeing them hurt, abused, or injured can become too difficult for some people.” This is particularly true in Africa she says, where animal protection can put workers in life-or-death situations. Big game poachers now work for dangerous cartels. The poachers are heavily-armed and wildlife protectors are often injured or killed. As she investigated this, she found a dearth of research so she started conducting her own. Her goal is to create and launch a 24-hour crisis network for these workers, providing counseling support and connecting them to resources. Their work protecting wildlife, she says, is so important and must be supported.
“There will come a day when we won’t be able to see a real tiger in the wild or elephants in their habitat – we won’t be able to see it because we’ve destroyed it. I love animals – I really do. They’re so real, not like humans. You don’t have to figure them out. What you see is what you get.”