The voice of a rescue effort half a world away speaks in Buffalo

May 20, 2019

She was there in Thailand as U.S. military personnel participated in a daring rescue watched around the world. She represented the U.S. Government as its spokesperson, providing a voice on behalf of those who worked to save a youth soccer team trapped for days in a flooded cave. Air Force Captain Jessica Tait wraps up a visit to Buffalo Monday, having shared her story and some advice to local students since Friday.

Captain Tait, who grew up in Virginia and is currently stationed in South Korea, delivered the commencement address to D'Youville students during their graduation ceremonies Sunday at Kleinhans Music Hall.

Captain Jessica Tait of the United States Air Force delivered the commencement addresses at D'Youville College's Sunday graduation ceremonies. Tait was the official spokesperson for the US government during last year's daring rescue of a Thai youth soccer team trapped in a cave.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

"I'm going to be talking about my story but I think it's really important to take the opportunity to extract lessons I've learned through my story and even in, say, childhood, or like my time when I was in college," Tait said in advance of Sunday's ceremonies. "The three things I'm going to be speaking about are getting out of your comfort zone, believing that failure is not an option and the power of hope."

WBFO met Tait the previous Fridau morning, as she was about to address students of the Buffalo Public School District's Leonardo da Vinci High School, located within Madonna Hall on the D'Youville campus.

Tait's unit was chosen by the government of Thailand to assist with the search and rescue of the soccer players and coach who, while on a team bonding exercise, found themselves trapped in the Tham Luang cave system. Divers needed to carefully remain tethered as they navigated through darkened, flooded and tight channels to find the players, and then get them safely above ground. The team had been stranded for 18 days.

Captain Tait was selected by military brass to serve as the US Government's spokesperson. In that role, she appeared in more than 85 on-camera interviews, speaking to more than 100 local and international news media agencies. WBFO asked her about the Air Force getting to demonstrate their special skills as applied to this unique emergency situation.

"They were so talented when you think about problem solving," she said. "Not only did they have the skill set for combined space operations, rope operations, the ability to dive, but the command and control which I think is the bread and butter when it comes to military. When we were asked by the government of Thailand to come in and support them on this rescue mission, we were able to work side-by-side with them. I think that's what we saw, that collaboration, and that was the secret to the success there."

Tait also appeared over the weekend at a Girl Scouts event on the D'Youville campus and will complete her visits Monday at Maritime Academy Middle School on Genesee Street in Buffalo. She was asked about her impressions of the region.

"While New York City is very exciting, coming to Buffalo and having that kind of very intimate community vibe has been fantastic," she replied. "The architecture is great. The people have been great. Just wandering around the city and meeting everybody, I have so much goodness to say about Buffalo. I definitely will be back."