F – The Foreign Service

Posted: 3 August 2005 in A-Z, work, writing
Tags: , ,

F

The Foreign Service tries to pack as many brilliant people into its ranks as possible. Existing officers have a long, luminous history of building up incoming officers’ egos and raising them to a level on par with Winston Churchill, Abe Lincoln, Indira Gandhi and then squeezing and condensing that ego into a compact little package of confidence during a three month training period before shipping them off to packs of wolves in countries of cannibals, lung-eating pollution, vibrant fevers and diseases and, of late, IEDs. They are routinely told that they are the “cream of the crop”, the “elite”, and the “best that our country has to offer”. Leaving aside for a moment the argument that recruitment for the Foreign Service is so dismal that this group of creamy elites is only drawn from universities, families with existing Foreign Service or other government experience and impressionable interns and as such practically rules out entire groups of brilliant individuals that might more fully represent our country overseas, the new officers really are an elite bunch.

I didn’t go to the Georgetown school of foreign service. I wasn’t at a targeted university. No one in my family works in the government. I hadn’t ever been to DC. The aptitude test I took my junior year of college said I should first consider the lively art of Funeral Home Management and a distant second, think about being a Foreign Service Officer. So essentially, if I hadn’t changed my major six times during undergrad (finally landing on Anthropology in hopes of boosting my GPA), I never would have heard of or known how to get into the Foreign Service. I could rail on at length about the heavily male, heavily white tilt in the organization, but I do recognize that they are making an effort to change things.

Now I’m getting the opportunity to take on part of the training. In a mere seven shifts, I’ll leave the 24-hour a day work behind and slip thankfully back into 8-5 reliability. No more 3am nights spent listening to the rats in the ceiling panels. No more days spent anxiously checking CNN hoping that everything is still okay in the world. No more stress at being on the front line of response when an Embassy is attacked, an American missing, a terror threat reported. I’ll be guiding groups of new officers into the service, taking them through that first three month course, encouraging their excitement and tempering their perceptions with a touch of experience. I have no idea how they’ll take to me, but I hope they’ll take something from me. It’s the best assignment I’ve had since I joined almost a decade ago.

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