Last year the U.S. Foreign Service suffered a public relations disaster because of the widely reported “town hall meeting” at the State Department in which some Foreign Service Officers protested the prospect of being required to serve in Iraq. Eventually, volunteers were found to fill all the positions opening in 2008, but as is usually the case, the good news never overtook the bad.
This year, there was no shortage of volunteers, even initially, to fill all the Iraq and Afghanistan positions opening in 2009. The “mainstream media” have not reported this, apparently considering it not newsworthy. Nonetheless, the American Foreign Service Association issued a press release on October 2, which we are pleased to publish here as a reminder that FSOs and other State Department civilians continue a tradition of voluntary service in some of the world’s most difficult and dangerous places.
The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) welcomes Secretary Rice’s announcement that the Department of State has now filled all of its positions at the U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan for the summer 2009 assignment cycle with qualified, willing volunteers – as has been the case every year since those two diplomatic missions came into existence. It is a tribute to the courage and sense of duty of the people of the Foreign Service that our members, as well as a number of Civil Service colleagues, have stepped forward without hesitation every year to staff the embassies and provincial reconstruction teams in those two war zones. These are our largest diplomatic missions in the world, and they present unique dangers and challenges to the thousands of our members who have volunteered since 2003.
AFSA hopes that those journalists, media outlets, and commentators who erroneously reported last October that the Department of State had been unable to fully staff the Iraq mission will now show as much zeal in reporting that, in fact, every one of these positions in both Iraq and Afghanistan for summer 2009 has been filled more than eight months in advance. Those journalists did a great disservice to the Department of State and its employees – who have never shied away from hardship service in some of the most dangerous places on earth – and we hope that these journalists will now set the record straight.