At the young age of seven, U.S. Army Capt. Jake Day remembers wanting to be the Mayor of his hometown of Salisbury, Maryland.
“It sounds cliché, I know,” Day said. “But I knew my town could be a better place and I knew that there were things I wanted to see happen--some of that was through the eyes of a seven-year-old and some of that was just through the ageless lens of wanting to pick up trash and make our streets prettier.”
Day is one of only three full-time mayors to have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana deployed as a Navy Lieutenant, and U.S. Army Major Brent Taylor, Mayor of North Ogden, Utah, made the ultimate sacrifice for his nation when was killed in action during a 2018 insider attack.
Day wanted to join the military when he was 17, but decided to pursue a career in architecture and city planning instead.
“I kind of felt like at each point in life there was more I wanted to learn,” Day said. “I look at life like you are building a portfolio of experiences.”
Day earned a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Maryland and master’s degrees in Urban Design and Environmental Policy from Carnegie Mellon University and Oxford University.
It was while studying abroad in England; Day said he got ‘homesick’ for America.
“Layered on with my previous desire to enlist, I said ‘that's it, when I get home, I’m doing it, I’m enlisting,” Day said.
Therefore, in 2009 at 26-years-old Day enlisted in the Army National Guard.
“I loved basic training and the opportunity to join the Army National Guard so I could continue to have a career outside of the military,” Day said.
After enlisting, Day quickly went to Officer Candidate School. After OCS Day was assigned to the 158th Cavalry Regiment.
“As the flag rolled up on the Cavalry in our state, I went back to OCS and served as a platoon trainer or a ‘black hat’,” said Day. “I loved that I had the opportunity to shape and select future officers, trying to recognize in someone whether or not you could entrust other Soldiers lives to them. That was one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had in the military.”
At the time Day was doing community based planning with small cities and towns. That year, upon moving back to his hometown, the seed planted in the mind of seven-year-old Day grew into the will to get more involved.
“I would drive home every night to my city and I wasn't happy with the way things were going,” Day said. “I felt like this is the largest city in our region, we should be leading the way and we weren’t—so I decided to get involved with the City Planning Commission, then ran for City Council and became the City Council President.”
After being unanimously elected City Council President of Salisbury, Day decided to run for Mayor in 2015.
Now in his second term Day will still have more than two years remaining in his term when he returns from his deployment to East Africa with Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
When Day received notice for deployment, he was initially worried about leaving since he was in the middle of handling his city’s COVID-19 response.
“Obviously I was a little nervous about what the reaction would be to leaving but I received a ton of support,” Day said. “It was a strange time because I was so personally engaged with the COVID response.
While deployed Day says, he knows his city is in good hands with his team and City Administrator Julia Glanz as Acting Mayor.
“I was City Council President when she started as an intern, I taught her as a student at Salisbury University and I have watched her grow into the role she is in and she blows the doors off the place,” Day said. “She is fantastic at her job and it allows me not to worry about things back home and to focus on my job here.”
While deployed Day serves as the CJTF-HOA Information Operations Deputy Director and Special Technical Operations Chief.
“My job here is to help produce effects in support of the Commander’s objectives,” said Day. “A lot of our focus is on building relationships outside of the base, particularly in Djibouti–so by building relationships and trust, we can help protect American lives and complete the mission.”
Day spoke highly of his deployed team saying he is proud of them and impressed by their professionalism.
“I think we have a lot to be proud of,” Day said. “I’ve seen the reaction from some of our African partners. I know we are having an impact on a very human level—we are doing things that are changing people’s perception of our country and our relationships are improving.”
Day said the past few months while on this deployment has piqued his interest in other areas of information operations and that he plans to make a full career out of the military. As far as his work on the civilian side Day isn’t quite sure yet what the future could hold.
“I love the job as Mayor because as a city planner and architect, my background is suited for place-making and city-making,” Day said.
Day also shared his thoughts on the importance of services members utilizing their right to vote even while deployed.
“When we wear this uniform we don't talk politics, we don't make decisions that are politically driven but we all still have a private but still solemn responsibility to be a part of the voting process,” Day said. “One of the great things about our military is that we are not in some elite or separate class, we are all in the American struggle together—so that means we get a say too and we should participate in voting.”
Day is looking forward to finishing his tour in Djibouti and returning home to his wife Liz and his daughters, Lily and Olivia. Nevertheless, he also has plans about getting back to work as Mayor.
“When I get back home we are going to have to dive into economic recovery, they are already working on that now,” Day said. “That’s going to be the main effort because American small businesses have struggled through COVID-19 and their survival is critical to America’s prosperity—that’s going to be where my attention is when I return home. In the meantime, back to work.”