U.S. military spokeswoman impresses Thai viewers

She is an American soldier of Asian descent who won the hearts of Thais with her straightforward style and reliable updates as the world anxiously watched the dramatic effort to rescue 13 young Thai boys trapped in a flooded cave last month.

“Captain Jessica Tait, a U.S. Air Force officer, became a public sweetheart when she appeared as the spokesperson for the 353rd Special Operations Group sent to participate in the rescue operation in Chiang Rai,’’ said an article in the English-language Bangkok Post newspaper last week.

American soldiers are anything but an unusual presence to many Thais, as thousands of them arrive in Thailand every year to take part in the joint military exercises known as Cobra Gold. During the drills, they help to build schools and deliver medical services to Thais in rural villages, aside from enduring rigorous training with soldiers from Thailand and other countries.

It is not often, however, that Thais see a woman as the face of the United States military – and one who bears some physical resemblance to them – and that represents a strong positive message, especially to young Thai women.

The 30-year-old Tait was born in Seoul, South Korea, to an American Air Force officer and a Korean mother. They moved to Virginia where Tait received an Air Force scholarship and graduated with a degree in Art History before joining the military.

“My dad never set any limitations. In my mind, if I want to do something, the only thing stopping me is me, not society or the world,” she told the Bangkok Post.

To amplify the message that women are capable of anything, the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok produced a widely viewed video featuring Capt. Tait on women’s empowerment after the rescue mission ended. In the video entitled “We Can Do Anything,” she interacts with Thais and talks about how women can achieve their goals if they have passion, dedication, are strong and work together.

“We welcomed Captain Jessica Tait to Bangkok to talk to Thai audiences about the role of women in the U.S. Armed Forces and to describe the U.S. Thai-led #ThaiCaveRescue operation. Thanks CAPT Tait!” tweeted U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davies.

She viewed her role during the cave rescue operation as being a reliable interlocutor so the U.S. military team could focus on the vital work they were doing without having to answer a constant barrage of questions from the media.

“You need somebody to be a messenger since there were so many media and so much attention. It is essential that someone tell the story,” Tait said, adding that “maximum disclosure, minimum delay” was her guiding rule in dealing with the press and the public.

For young Thai women who aspire to a career in the military – or in any field or endeavor – she offered clear advice and encouragement.

“These girls need to know that in their lives, it is possible to work hard and have a dream. They can achieve whatever they want because anything is possible regardless of your gender and background,” said Capt. Tait.