How I found the Foreign Service

Following 9/11, I made a concerted effort to learn as much as I could about those events, an effort that led me to oppose the Iraq War in 2003 not on pacifist grounds but based on my perception that the administration’s position was simply wrong. I carry pretty firm convictions and am known to express my opinion rather vehemently, but this isn’t because I’m close minded as much as its that I prefer gladiatorial competition determine which beliefs I lean towards. I’m open-minded and always willing to admit when I’m wrong, so I was hoping that my take on the war was due to some personal failure to properly investigate everything. Alas, I was vindicated.

As the implications of the war deteriorated during the first 3 or 4 years following the fall of Saddam Hussein, I began to feel the urge to do more than simply teach about 9/11, as fulfilling as that was. But I felt excluded from the national debate that was going on in the United States (or even was absent in some ways) and just needed to contribute in some way. I looked into the Human Terrain System program that placed social scientists in military units to serve as cultural translators of sorts, a position that I think would have suited me well but would have taken me away from my family for 9-12 months at a go. With a baby daughter, I wasn’t keen on being gone for that long (and it turns out that there’ve been some problems with HTS).

While I was looking into HTS, I discovered the Foreign Service. It was well suited to my interests and qualifications and my wife agreed that it would be something she’d be willing to go along with it if I could get in. The only problem was getting in. Thankfully I had a great and reliable teaching job that I was happy to stay for as long as it took to get into the Foreign Service.

I filled out my first application in 2007, back when the PNQ were still part of the application. I started the application right before the deadline and decided to wait until the next round in order to put more effort into the PNQ. Life being what it is, this delay lasted almost a year and by the time I resubmitted, the PNQ were no longer part of the application process. I submitted my application right at the deadline and was eligible for the spring test but there were no available seats in Japan, so I didn’t sit for the FSOT until Fall 2009.

I passed the FSOT and went to the FSOA in March 2010. My security investigation began in May and I was on the register in August. I initially started to slip down the register and was resigned to either learning a CNL or improving my OA score. I retook the FSOT in the fall of 2010 while starting my study of Korean. After the initial slide, however, I began to creep up the register.

At the end of December I was #38, but since the lowest invite from the previous class was #35 and that class was 1/3 Political candidates, combined with the reduced A-100 sizes as a result of the budgetary failings of the US Congress, I wasn’t expecting an invitation any time soon. I was quite surprised to find an invitation on Dec 28, and after a few days of family consultation, I accepted it and joined the #160th A-100 class. The timing was perfect, falling right at the end of the Japanese academic year and avoiding any hassles associated with bailing out in the middle of a term. It really felt as if my Forrest Gump fairy tale was still running strong.

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  1. Hey there – I’ve been blog stalking the 160th A-100 class since I too will be in it! I’ve set up a group on Facebook under 160th A-100, so that we can all get to know each other, but so far no dice. If you can, do check it out.

    Otherwise, see you in just over a month!


  2. Japansen

     /  February 18, 2011

    Hi Halima,

    How did you find this site?!! I’m just getting started on it and haven’t mentioned it or posted any information about it that I recall. I’m very curious how you ended up here.

    See you then.

  3. Welcome to the Foreign Service! I have added a link to your blog to my blogroll of future FS blogs at

    • Japansen

       /  February 24, 2011

      Thanks, Digger. I’ve enjoyed reading you. There’s a lot of good FS blogs out there and you’re one of the best. I don’t have any chance of making the impact here that you did but I appreciate the nod.


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