Foreign Service FAQs

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what comes next. I’m sure many of my friends and family are anxious to find out where I will be posted. Mainly, will she be somewhere that is worth visiting? Someone promised a bunch of people a free place to stay if they want to visit, but will anyone actually want to come see me, especially if I am in Djibouti or the Congo?
So what does come next for this intrepid traveler? Training. June 30th I will start my six week training course at the Foreign Service Institute. Think of it as basic training for diplomats, but instead of ropes courses and running drills, we’ll be doing well, I’m not quite sure actually. Probably learning the ropes of the State Department rather than dangling from them over a dirty pond. That’s my hope anyway.

Here are some frequently asked questions:

1. When will you find out where you are going?

During the second week of training, the bid list is given out to everyone. The bid list is a list (shocker!) of all the posts available to members of my training class. Everyone then spends time ranking their bids high, middle, and low. We meet with a Career Development Officer to discuss our goals and post desires. They determine where everyone will go. During the fifth week, we have a ceremony called Flag Day. This is when everyone gets their assignments and a corresponding little flag, because you know Fun With Flags.

So the short answer: early August.

2. How long is your training?

The A-100 training class is six weeks long. If I have to learn a language, which it is likely I will, then my training will be extended. Odds are language training will be an additional six months. Sprinkle in some consular tradecraft and area studies too. So unless the bid list consists of all English speaking posts, I’ll be in DC for a while.

3. But what does all this Foreign Service stuff mean? What will you actually do?

Foreign Service and diplomat are one in the same. I will serve in an Embassy or Consulate abroad doing many different things, which will all depend on my position at that location for those two years. During the first one or two tours I will probably be doing consular work. That means I’ll be that person you see behind the visa window at an Embassy.

Like this photo I grabbed from the interwebs:

 

My official track/cone is management though. That means after my first one or two tours, I will be focusing primarily on the management side of the Embassy. Keeping an Embassy running requires a lot of work and coordination of US and local staff, plus overseeing housing, our properties, and vehicles. I’ll like spend quite a few tours (maybe, this is all hearsay) as a General Services Officer. This is the person who fixes everything and makes all the other FSOs either miserable or happy. My goal is to keep the vast majority happy. Some people just chose to be miserable and I’ll try to make them happy, but attitude is everything.

Eventually I’d like to be a Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM). This person is essentially No.2 at the Embassy. I’d rather not spend years waiting to be confirmed by the Senate for Ambassadorship. I mean if a certain President offers it, of course I will serve at the President’s pleasure, but DCM is more my style.

5. What’s your training like?

Good question. I’ll let you know when I find out.

6. So who is your boss?

The President of the United States and the Secretary of State, plus a few other people too.

7. Are you in the CIA now?

I will not be allowed to discuss many aspects of my job, for security purposes and because I will be bound by a non-disclosure agreement. However, this does not mean I am in the CIA. Nor am I a new character on House of Cards, Scandal, or 24.

8. Where do you want to go?

I have my preferences, but at the end of the day I have signed up to be available to go worldwide, wherever the Department of State thinks I need to go. Africa has a special place in my heart and I would like to serve another few tours throughout the continent. If that’s where I’m meant to go.

9. Will you be allowed to come home and visit?

Yes, I will accrue leave annually, but let’s be honest, go on vacation to somewhere amazing or come back to Oklahoma? I’m going to use my vacation to see the world. After each tour, we are expected to spend four weeks back in America doing American stuff – like going to Target, seeing a baseball game, and overeating. It is mandated by Congress that all FSOs spend this time acclimating to the US. I’ll use that time to visit friends and family.

10. Do you have to wear a suit everyday?

Yep. Good thing I like pencil skirts. J Crew is going to love me.

11. Can we come visit you?

Sure! If I know you, like you, and you don’t have too many expectations of me entertaining you. The Foreign Service is one of those jobs that you stay until the work is done, there is no clock-out at 5:00pm.

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