Protecting from the Sidelines

Protecting from the Sidelines

Special Agent Rachel Wolf-Hubbard, M.A. ’17, protected the Family, Friends of the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team During the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

by Lisa Conley-Kendzior

Rachel Wolf-Hubbard




As Rachel (Ridley) Wolf-Hubbard, M.A. ’17, emerged from a traditional Bedouin tent and gazed up at the stars twinkling over the Qatari desert, she thought about how far she’d come from her small hometown in Maryland, half a world—and a lifetime—away.

Wolf-Hubbard was born and raised in Laurel, Md., a town of less than 30,000 situated between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. She always dreamed of traveling the world and had a particular fascination with Egypt and the Middle East where she hoped to one day work as an archaeologist, a vocation that, perhaps surprisingly, was not inspired by Indiana Jones.

“I always get asked that question,” she said with a laugh, “but I had never seen those movies until after I was already on that path. I think I got the idea from a book I read in history class.”

She enrolled in the University of Maryland where she studied anthropology and Arabic. It was during that time that she also took her first trip to the Middle East, which solidified her interest in the region but also shifted her career aspirations away from archaeology and toward international security.

“Traveling to Morocco was such a positive experience for me that I started to think about how I could help others travel to the region safely,” she said. “So many people think they can’t go to the Middle East, and that’s not necessarily true.”

Her desire to work in international security led her to pursue a Master of Arts in Middle East Studies at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

“I was looking for a D.C. school in particular because I wanted to work for the government in some way, shape or form,” she said. “I didn't really know exactly what I'd end up doing yet, but I felt like being in D.C. would be a good place to get started.

“And one of the big factors in choosing GW was the Arabic language part of the Middle East Studies program,” she added. “I wanted something that would force me to keep up with it.”

While at GW, Wolf-Hubbard studied the history and political landscape of the Middle East, and she recalls a particularly transformative class focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“It just opened my eyes to be able to see things differently,” she said. “You see how many different arguments and perspectives there are, and how many people can be right at the same time. It really shaped the way I look at the world overall.”

After graduation, Wolf-Hubbard, in her own words, “lucked into” a job at the U.S. Department of State, where she worked as a Middle East and North Africa analyst within the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), the department’s federal law enforcement and security bureau.

DSS is sort of like the Secret Service, Wolf-Hubbard explained, but instead of only protecting members of the executive branch and their families, DSS special agents protect the U.S. secretary of state, visiting foreign dignitaries, former heads of state and U.S. citizens during major international events like the Olympics.

Wolf-Hubbard decided to apply to become a special agent, a process that was arduous from the very beginning.

“They accept applications on a rolling basis now, but it used to be just once every one or two years, so you just had to wait for your chance,” she said. “Then you’d submit your application and just kind of keep your fingers crossed that you’d make it past the initial avalanche of all these applications going in.”

She did, and it was the start of a nearly two-year journey involving oral and written exams, hypothetical security situations and problem-solving assessments. After she was accepted, she underwent an additional nine months of training before she was given her first assignment as a special agent in 2020.

“It was worth it,” Wolf-Hubbard said of the grueling application process. “The job is amazing, and it has a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ aspect to it. There are so many different things you can do and places you can go, so everybody’s career looks different.”

However, many special agents have the same goal: to work a major international event. Wolf-Hubbard got that chance in April 2022 when she received an email assigning her to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“Not everybody gets the opportunity to do something like that, so I was very, very excited," she said.

Wolf-Hubbard and a team of three other agents traveled to Qatar where they served as field liaison officers for more than 300 family members and friends of the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team.

“We were there for them as a resource in case somebody lost a passport or got held up or detained at a game…things like that. Basically, we were there as a security presence if anything should come up,” she explained. “Thankfully, nothing did.”

The security team also accompanied the family and friends on excursions, including a trip to the desert where the group rode dune buggies and camels, went sandboarding and dined in a Bedouin tent.


DSS Special Agent Rachel Wolf-Hubbard (far right) and her U.S. Soccer Federation counterparts hold up an American flag before the start of the FIFA World Cup match between the U.S. Men’s National Team and Iran at Al Thumama Stadium, Doha, Qatar, Nov. 29, 2022. 


“We got to go because it was a security risk if something were to happen in this remote location where there wasn’t great cell phone service,” she said. “It was a lot of fun and definitely one of the highlights of the trip.”

Wolf-Hubbard, who admits that she’s not a huge soccer fan, said that she and the other special agents were heavily invested in the success of Team USA, since its duration in the tournament determined the security team’s duration in the country.

“We were cheering along with everybody else,” she said. “We really wanted them to go all the way.”

The team advanced past the group stage but ended up losing to the Netherlands in the round of 16, bringing Wolf-Hubbard’s time in the Middle East to an end…for now.

Wolf-Hubbard, who at the time of the interview was stationed with the DSS New York Field Office but has since been assigned to the secretary of state’s security detail, said she’s looking forward to having future opportunities to travel with DSS.

“I would love to have a chance to be at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, but beyond that, I'm just kind of excited to see more areas of the world,” she said. “I’ve just barely scratched the surface of all of the things that a special agent can do.”  



  Courtesy of the U.S. Department of State