No One Left Behind: B-School Students Help To Evacuate Afghanis To Safety

Blake Lindgren, Duke Fuqua School of Business, MBA ‘17, NOLB board member and treasurer

Lindgren is a vice president at JM Search and a member of the firm’s Industrial Technology practice. He is a former active duty Air Force officer, rising to the rank of Captain in the Space and Missile Operations Community. He earned a B.S. in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University.

Why is the mission of No One Left Behind important to you?

Blake Lindgren

I was not in a job in the military that allowed me to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan. I was in high school when 911 occurred, and it had a very visceral impact on me; It’s one of the main reasons why I joined the military. I knew of NOLB, and there was an opportunity that opened up later last year for somebody to join as the treasurer and member of the board. Quite frankly, I think just because I carry with me this sense that I didn’t get to deploy, this was my way of being able to, at least in my mind, have some small sense of giving back.

To me, it’s incredibly important. Like anybody who’s a service member, there’s this shared obligation. This is our generation’s Saigon; We have a moral obligation because it’s our credibility on the world stage.

Why do you believe the MBA skill set is well suited for non-profit organizations like NOLB?

There’s a very strong contingent of MBAs that want to be part of social impact or net impact, and I do think that people at these programs are looking for something. If that’s working with SIVs from Afghanistan or Iraq, that’s great, we’ve got a place for you. If it’s something else, that’s fine, too.

But the skill set from an MBA program is incredible, it’s just where do you want to channel that? Those mission driven organizations that are trying to alleviate some of those problems in the world are a great way to deploy that skill set, even in a volunteer capacity.

Matt Watters, University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, MBA ’13; NOLB board member

Watters spent six years in the U.S. Army Green Berets and deployed to Afghanistan in 2020. He is an associate partner at McKinsey and Company. He joined the NOLB board in January to facilitate continued evacuation efforts as well as resettlement of Afghans in the U.S.

Why is the mission of No One Left Behind important to you?

Matt Watters

I got involved in evacuations in August 2021 because my interpreter from Afghanistan received death threats from the Taliban and needed to be evacuated. Through that, I met No One Left Behind. We’ve helped many like my interpreter get to the U.S. It’s really inspiring work.

Many who qualify for Special Immigrant Visas are still in Afghanistan. NOLB’s work is important because many of those interpreters painted a target on their backs by working with us. I think there is an important question to ask: if we don’t honor the SIV promise to those that worked for the U.S. in difficult times, why would others support our military in the future? It’s important for national security that we follow through on the SIV promise. It’s also just the right thing to do.

Why do you believe the MBA skill set is well suited for non-profit organizations like NOLB?

I’ve been surprised by the number of MBAs present at NOLB. In particular, Said Business School has a really strong thread of social entrepreneurship, and it’s something I focused on while I was there. It’s great to be able to do it with NOLB as well.

To learn more about the mission of No One Left Behind or to make a donation, visit its website.


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