“We have a moral obligation to find a path for those who so valiantly demonstrated their dedication to freedom, liberty, and the individual rights of all Afghans. America owes a debt and Moral Compass is here to ensure that debt is paid.”— Ben Owen, Flanders Fields
As veterans, we live by the moral code of never leaving a comrade behind. That is, and always has been, the Special Operations Association of America’s guiding principle. The past five months, with the fall of Afghanistan, has been hard on our members, our community, the greater veteran community, and the thousands of civilian volunteers who stepped forward to help save lives. SOAA recognizes the strain and personal conflict that our community is experiencing — what we have deemed, the moral injury — a belief that our work in Afghanistan was just and that our country made a promise to those who served beside us over the past 20 years.
“To support our veteran community, I am honored to announce the creation of the Moral Compass Federation — a group of 16 Special Operations Forces focused non-profit organizations, who have been working tirelessly to keep our promise to our Afghan partners and allies,” said Daniel Elkins, CEO of SOAA. “The Federation’s ranks include experts with non-profit and diplomatic experience, while leveraging its core leadership who have 10-to-20 years each of Special Operations combat experience supporting the mission in Afghanistan.”
The Federation was established to pool resources and shared experiences to provide for humanitarian aid, shelter, and forward movement for the men and women who stood alongside American service members and who remain trapped in Afghanistan. “We evaluated our situation and developed a SOF-centric team with the skills and determination to complete the mission we promised to our Afghan teammates no matter the cost,” said Mike Edwards of Project Exodus Relief, one of the veteran Afghan evacuation groups who answered the call in August 2021 during the fall of Kabul and assisted in evacuating thousands of Afghan partners.
Focused on education, advocacy, and policy solutions for the Afghan Special Operations Forces, Afghan Air Force, and Special Mission Wing and members of the National Directorate of Security — here in the United States and in Afghanistan — the Federation is assisting thousands of members of the Afghan special operations community in Afghanistan, as well as helping those in the United States adjust to their new lives. “Resettlement in the U.S. is another commitment we owe these men and women, and we will diligently work shoulder-to-shoulder with re-settlement organizations around the country,” stated retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General David Hicks of Operation Sacred Promise.
The Moral Compass Federation is unique from other evacuation coalitions as it focused solely on the needs of American and Afghan veterans and their families, to specifically address the issues facing the special operations community — from being a nexus here at home for veterans who have been working non-stop since August to being a unified voice to advocate for those Afghan special operators and their families left behind.
It is estimated that 2,000 members of the Afghan Special Forces made it onto U.S. bound evacuation flights, in addition to 150 U.S.-trained Afghan pilots who escaped to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to ensure their helicopters did not fall into the hands of the Taliban, and are now en route to the United States. More than 20,000 special operations forces, and their families, remain trapped in Afghanistan.
With each passing day, the threat to these men and women grows, as the Taliban continues to hunt them, district by district. “The Moral Compass Federation foresees the need for future generations to understand the commitment to indigenous fighting forces such as the ANASOF soldiers that fought with us for two decades. A loud and clear message that America stands by its commitments to its allies who served in trust,” said Stacy Duke Gentile of Task Force North Star.
The moral injury of the fall of Afghanistan has affected thousands of U.S. veterans and survivors. “Our job will not be done until the U.S. government fulfills its promise,” Elkins said. “Moral Compass provides a safe outlet for those who continue to carry that burden.”
“Shoulder to shoulder,” “never above and never below but always beside,” “by thru and with”: These are the mantras at the core of every Moral Compass member. Special Operations Association of America is proud to represent the Moral Compass Federation and its work on behalf of the Combat Special Operations community. Our collective commitment will allow Moral Compass to focus on solutions to assist our Afghan counterparts, so they are ready for extraction, when the time comes.
Travis Peterson is a retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant and founding member of the Moral Compass Federation. Members of the Moral Compass Federation include the Special Operations Association of America, Aces & Eights, CEEC.CHURCH, Flanders Fields, The Lifeline Foundation, OP620, Operation Freedom Birds, Operation Recovery, Operation Sacred Promise, Project Exodus, R20, Task Force Argo, Task Force Diablo, Task Force Hawk, Task Force North Star, and Task Force Pineapple.
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