Tracey C. Jones, USAF, MBA, PhD
Dr. Tracey Jones is an author, speaker, veteran, publisher, podcaster, and international leadership expert, who currently serves as President of Tremendous Leadership and T3 Solutions. She picked up the reigns from her father, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones in 2008, a legend in the insurance and motivational arenas. Tracey is a passionate lifelong learner whose career spans top positions in four major industries from the military to high tech to defense contracting and publishing.
She is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, a decorated veteran who served in the First Gulf War and Bosnian War, earned an MBA in Global Management, and a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies through Lancaster Bible College. Tracey is also a faculty member of the prestigious Institute for Organization Management (IOM) and was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters (honorary PhD) from Central Penn College in 2017.
Tracey is the author of 11 titles, five of which are children’s books which use her rescue pets to teach character development to our next generation of emerging leaders. Her latest book SPARK: 5 Essentials to Ignite the Greatness Within was an Amazon #1 new release and contains her research on the energy between leaders and followers and the power of resiliency and intrinsic motivation.
Tracey’s company has donated over $4M to local homeless shelters, recovery outreach and mission groups, disaster recovery organizations, and scholarships to local colleges in the past 14 years. She currently serves on Bethesda Mission located in Harrisburg, PA which provides support to local men, women, and children facing addition and homelessness.
She is and has served on numerous non-profit boards where she uses her resources to spark the greatness in others. You can find her traveling the world speaking to groups spanning from women’s ministries in Africa, to teaching middle schoolers in Europe, or interviewing world leaders for her Leaders on Leadership podcast.
Tracey lives in Enola, PA with her husband, Mike, and enjoys the outdoors, biking, traveling, writing, publishing, spending time with her pack of rescue pets, and giving others the tools to live a tremendous life.
Thomas H. Harris, ChFC®, CLU®, FLMI
Vice-Chair, Advisory Council
Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company
Tom Harris is president of Life Insurance and Annuities for The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company. He was appointed to his current position in 2022 after serving as executive vice president and chief distribution officer since 2013.Harris is responsible for the product development, marketing and servicing of the company’s industry-leading life and annuity solutions and Penn Mutual’s national distribution channels, including the Career Agency System, Independence Financial Network and Strategic Alliances. He is also responsible for overseeing direct-to-consumer sales and operations for Vantis Life, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Penn Mutual.
His career spans more than 35 years in all facets of distribution leadership. Prior to joining Penn Mutual in 2009, Harris served as senior vice president, Prudential Select Brokerage, where he was responsible for growing life insurance sales through independent producers.
Harris received a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science from Temple University. He holds Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and Fellow, Life Management Institute (FLMI) designations. He is active in the industry as a member of Finseca, the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), Women in Insurance and Financial Services (WIFS), and National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA). He is the Vice-Chair for the Center for Veterans Affairs at The American College of Financial Services Advisory Council.
Colonel Gregory D. Gadson
Patriot Strategies, LLC
Colonel Gregory D. Gadson, a Chesapeake, VA, native, served our nation in the United States Army for more than 26 years. Gadson’s service culminated as the Garrison Commander of Fort Belvoir, where he oversaw the daily operations of the post, a strategic sustaining base where more than 50,000 military personnel and employees provide logistical, intelligence, medical, and administrative support, and command and control for a mix of more than 140 commands and agencies for the Department of Defense.
A 25-year career Army officer, Gadson’s life is a portrait of courage in the face of great adversity. In May 2007, as commander of the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery, Gadson’s greatest challenge came in Iraq, where an improvised explosive device (IED) attack cost him both legs above the knees and normal use of his right arm and hand. Despite this, Gadson remained on active duty in the Army and continued to inspire many with his message of courage, perseverance, determination, and teamwork. Refusing to be defined by the proverbial “hail of bullets,” he has since drawn upon the lessons of pride, poise, and team, learned as a West Point linebacker, and applied them to his life, career, and family.
Commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant of Field Artillery in 1989 from the United States Military Academy at West Point, Greg served in every major conflict of the past two decades, including Operations Desert Shield/Storm in Kuwait, Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Greg served in various assignments throughout the world. He dedicated himself to leading the soldiers, civilian employees, and family members in living the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. Greg is a passionate advocate for wounded warriors, veterans, and those with disabilities; on several occasions, he has testified before Congress on issues related to these groups.
Greg continues a very energetic and dynamic lifestyle where he continues to serve his nation as an entrepreneur and managing partner of Patriot Strategies, LLC, a government services company. He continues acting, currently in The Inspectors, a family television series on CBS. Greg is also an accomplished photographer/artist and remains active in cycling, skiing, and scuba.
Greg’s military awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (2), Bronze Stars (3), Purple Heart; the Meritorious Service Medal (3) and the Army Commendation Medal (3). He is a graduate of Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and holds masters’ degrees in Information Systems from Webster University, and Policy Management from Georgetown University. He holds an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Webster University.
Strategic Communications Executive
Heather Nauert served as Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and Spokesperson for The Department of State, from 2017 to 2019. In that dual role, she articulated U.S. foreign policy and coordinated public messaging for the Department, its leadership, and 294 U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide.
She also helped plan, execute and manage messaging on overseas trips by Secretary Michael R. Pompeo, during travel to 26 countries. Nauert was the fourth-ranking senior official at State as Under Secretary, overseeing 952 staff and a $1.2 billion budget. She was also the Department’s highest-ranking woman – all while simultaneously serving as Department Spokesperson.
Her policy knowledge and interaction with thought leaders helped to generate international support for key diplomatic initiatives, including the “Maximum Pressure” sanctions campaign on North Korea, which produced a breakthrough agreement on negotiations. Nauert provided strategic counsel to Secretary Pompeo during five meetings with North Korean officials, including Chairman Kim Jong Un, and was in a select U.S. delegation that brought home three American prisoners from North Korea in 2018.
Nauert effectively advocated for the administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy, arguing in her international visits that all nations must protect their sovereignty from economic coercion by other countries, particularly China. She was similarly an integral part of U.S. delegations who discussed directly with the Chinese their actions in the South China Sea, trade, forced technology transfer, and human rights.
She oversaw the U.S. effort to combat state-sponsored disinformation campaigns overseas and formed international coalitions to counter Russian propaganda. She secured $40 million in government funding for these programs and expanded the Department’s mission to include confronting propaganda from China and Iran.
While at State, Nauert served as board member of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which governs taxpayer-funded foreign news services, including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Office of Cuba Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, and Middle East Broadcasting Networks.
Before joining State, Nauert spent nearly 20 years as an anchor and reporter at Fox News and ABC News, where she covered many of the world’s most consequential stories, including the September 11 attacks, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and genocide in Darfur, Sudan.
Nauert was born in Rockford, Ill., and spent much of her childhood in Wisconsin. She has an M.A. in Journalism from Columbia University and received her B.A. from Mount Vernon College. She lives with her husband and two young children in New York. Nauert serves as a member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships and on the board of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Program.
Vice President, Business Transformation
As Vice President, Business Transformation, Sheri is responsible for aligning Penn Mutual’s change agents with the corporate strategy to ensure visibility and clarity. Through this alignment, Sheri builds strong cross-functional teams that create executable programs and roadmaps to achieve goals. Sheri’s strategic oversight of Penn Mutual’s change efforts and her responsiveness to new and changing priorities is evident in her 16 years with Penn Mutual.
The Business Transformation team collaborates with business partners across the organization to deliver a wide range of transformational services including project guidance, data analysis, process improvements, product ownership and team formation and coaching. Under Sheri’s direction, the Business Transformation team has been instrumental in the launch of the Accelerated Client Experience, creating an award winning digital life insurance experience for advisers and clients in only 14 months.
Prior to her current role, Sheri led highly effective teams in Product Development, responsible for overseeing the end-to-end development of life and annuity products, including continuous improvements to the process. She also leader in Operations with responsibility for multiple change efforts that modernized the operational processes, including the Life New Business program and the Client communication modernization.
Sheri hails from a family with proud military traditions. She served in the U.S. Navy with duty stations at the Naval Damage Control Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Marine Corps Air Station in Okinawa, Japan. Her father, father-in-law, husband and son have all honorably served in the U.S. Navy. The lessons she learned through her eight-year military career have guided Sheri’s leadership style with teamwork at the center, which is evident as her team works collaboratively throughout the company.
Desiree Kaul, CHFC®, AFC®
Desiree Kaul is a Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) and an Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®). She was an American College Penn Mutual Center for Veteran Affairs scholarship recipient in June 2017.
Her extensive experience in financial counseling and education includes previous work as a Personal Financial Counselor on Patrick Air Force Base, educating service members on various financial topics including the roll out of the Blended Retirement System (BRS). A Master Financial Educator and Financial Coach with the Virginia Cooperative Extension, where she provided one-on-one counseling to economically vulnerable individuals and provided classroom instruction on a variety of financial topics to help clients achieve financial stability.
She has also worked with Junior Achievement (JA) of Greater Washington, Northern California, and the Space Coast teaching financial literacy concepts to grades K-12. Additionally, she has served as a Professional Tax Preparer for H&R Block, completing personal tax returns, and counseling on tax planning.
Desiree is currently a virtual Paraplanner for MainStreet Financial Planning, where she assists her team in assuring clients achieve their financial goals. Desiree is an Army Spouse of 22 years and has one teenage son and four cats.
Kevin Crawford, MBA
Vice President, Field Learning & Development
Kevin joined Northwestern Mutual in January 2020. His team of learning and development professionals is responsible for driving business priorities through strategic learning engagements with the field. Kevin’s team owns the National Training Program, which will bring a consistent learning experience to new financial representatives, increasing productivity and retention, and ultimately delivering a consistent client experience. Kevin believes that a strong partnership with the field is essential to drive transformation and deliver results.
Kevin started his career as an Army Intelligence Officer, serving 11 years on active duty in peacekeeping and war-time operations. He finished his last 3 years as a Professor at the United States Military Academy – West Point. Kevin transitioned to workplace learning as a consultant, helping companies like Walmart, Scotts Miracle-Gro, and HP develop transformational leaders to drive growth. His last position as a consultant was as the head of leadership development for McChrystal Group, a consulting firm founded by retired General Stanley McChrystal, taking leadership lessons from over a decade of combat and applying them to the corporate environment.
Kevin transitioned from consulting to corporate learning, moving to Saks Fifth Avenue, and Hudson’s Bay Company, as the Head of Learning and Development for these retail companies. Prior to joining Northwestern Mutual, Kevin was the head of Learning and Development for Guardian’s group insurance business, where he developed and executed a strategy to transform distribution learning and development, with a focus on the learner experience.
Kevin graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point, with a BS in International Politics. He also graduated from Harvard University with an MPA in International Security Policy and from Indiana University with an MBA. He currently lives in Mequon, WI with his wife, Eileen, and his two young boys, Jackson, and Connor. They enjoy all types of outdoor activities, watching the boys play sports, and are fanatical for Army Football and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Senior Vice President and Head of Institutional Investment Management
Mr. Yarbrough is currently Senior Vice President and head of Truist’s Institutional Investment Management businesses which are responsible for leading Truist’s Foundations and Endowments Specialty Practice and Retirement and Institutional Services business.
With over 25 years of experience within the investment management industry, Mr. Yarbrough has held an increasing variety of leadership and strategy roles. Currently, his team serves a wide range of institutions, including foundations, public charities, healthcare organizations, associations, and corporations.
Mr. Yarbrough graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1990 with a B.A. in Economics. He received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant and served in the U.S. Army Reserve. Stephen is a current trustee for the Camp-Youths Foundation, a past trustee for the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and served on the board of advisors for Girls on the Run Atlanta.
Advisory Council Member
Director, Licensing Services Nationwide Financial
Melvin Smith is the Director of Nationwide Financial Licensing Services. Melvin has been with Nationwide for 25 years and during this tenure has had several roles within Nationwide Financial, including Manager of the Annuity Issue Resolution Team, Nationwide Life Sales Internal Wholesaler, and Annuity Services Trainer.
Melvin earned his bachelor’s degree in Finance from Franklin University and a Master of Science degree in Management from Ohio Dominican University. He holds the following: a FINRA Series 6 and 26 and a Securities and Insurance Licensing Association Fellow designation. Melvin is a Marine Corps veteran and currently serves as the President of the Military Associate Resource Group National Chapter. In his free time, Melvin enjoys spending time with his wife, Heather, and their three children, Lauren, Liam (Army Reserves), and Hayley.
Melvin joined the Center for Military and Veterans Affairs Advisory Council in 2022. We thank him for bringing fresh energy to the team and look forward to working with him in the coming year.