Welcome to our unaccompanied tours (UT) blog, Foggy Bottom Rambles! We can share information, programs, and resources quickly with you and since blogs are a two way street, we (and the other readers) can hear from you. What's in a name you say? This blog reflects how we (back here in DC, Foggy Bottom area) provide information (rambles) to you. Find tips from the field, websites and information, home is where the hooch is suggestions, upcoming programs and events and follow our book club. Let us know what you think: contribute to the blog or email us at FLOaskUT@state.gov.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Here are some events coming up from the Foreign Service Youth Foundation http://www.fsyf.org
FSYF re-entry program-Kayaking on the Potomac-Saturday, August 25 from Thompson Boat Center, Washington D.C.
Visit to Peace Corp Headquarters, Shriver Hall, Wednesday August 22 10 am- 12 noon.
FSYF Annual Welcome Back Picinic-Sunday September 16 from 4pm Nottaway Park, Vienna
September - visit Library of Congress
October - Ghost Walk in Alexandria
November - Candlelight Tour of Mt. Vernon
December - National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Here is a link to a new blog from Jennifer S http://365baddays.blogspot.com/
And she was kind enough to share with us a little about her blog:
I think when people find out that you are being left behind while your spouse is on an unaccompanied tour in a far away and dangerous place, they naturally want to make you feel better. This leads to all sorts of unhelpful advice and lots of reminders of how things could be worse. I fully realize that things could be worse, like that my children could be starving in the Sudan or that they didn’t have Skype during the Vietnam War. However, knowing those facts doesn’t make me feel any better. Some well-meaning but thoroughly unhelpful person suggested that I write a gratitude journal. But I am so not the gratitude journal type. Then I got the idea that if I could find someone who is having a worse day than me for ridiculous reasons and I could laugh about it, then that might make me feel better.
So that is the purpose of the blog—to make me laugh and to feel grateful for small, silly things. It’s had a few other benefits as well. My husband now knows a little better what I’m going through while he’s away. The kids look forward to reading it and give me completely useless advice, but it’s still a bonding experience for us. And several of my friends who are left-behind-spouses, say that it helps to know that someone else is going through the same things as they are.
If it helps anyone else, that would be gravy, but at the very least, it is helping me. And if you have any nominations for someone who is having a really bad day that we can laugh about, I’d love to hear about it.
If you know of a blog, a good website or would just like to share your thoughts with our readers please write us at FLOaskUT@state.gov
Friday, July 20, 2012
Thursday, July 19, 2012
The Family Liaison Office (FLO) will conduct an interactive "Orientation Session" by conference call on Wednesday, July 25, 9:00-10:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. This program is designed for all employees and family preparing for or serving on long-term TDY. This service is presented jointly by FLO and MHN, a comprehensive mental and behavioral health services company. Topics covered include: overview of existing FLO services, counseling options, explanation of MHN, specialized training, monthly newsletter, and navigating the new MHN website to find health and work/life articles, assessments, and resources. Please direct questions or RSVPs to FLO's Unaccompanied Tours Support Officer at 202-647-1076 or 1-800-440-0397 or email FLOAskUT@state.gov.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
I am Margaret Bunton, the new Unaccompanied Tours (UT) Program Specialist. While I am new to the FLO, I am not new to Unaccompanied Tours. I have survived three Unaccompanied Tours, and I am currently experiencing my fourth UT as we speak! As a former Officer in the United States Army and the spouse of an Officer in the United States Air Force, I have experienced UTs from different perspectives. I have left family and loved ones behind in order to serve my country…and I have been left behind. I have also had the wonderful opportunity to share the UT experience with my spouse as a tandem. Because I understand the importance of having a support network before, during, and after a UT, I am here to serve and assist you in any way possible during your UT experience.
I also would like to remind you that there will be a Youth Awards Ceremony on Friday that will honor all children who have experienced or are currently experiencing a UT. Have a great week, and I look forward to seeing each of you on Friday!
Monday, July 16, 2012
By Ryan C. Crocker, Kabul
Invaluable civilians on the warfront
By Ryan C. Crocker, Published: July 5
I do two things each week at our management meeting: Read aloud the names of colleagues, mostly military but occasionally civilian, who have given their lives in service of our country; and welcome those recently arrived to serve the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other agencies. These volunteers leave homes, family and sometimes careers to work 16-plus hours a day, six to seven days a week, living in shipping containers. All are aware of the threats we face at the embassy and the more frequent indiscriminate fire against field positions.
These are tough jobs, in a tough place, under even tougher conditions. One cannot underestimate our civilian volunteers’ contributions to achieving our goal of creating a peaceful, stable, self-sustaining Afghanistan that can no longer harbor terrorists who would attack the United States. Since I arrived last July, Afghan forces have begun to take the lead on security for about 75 percent of the population. Never before have so many Afghans had access to health care and education, both boys and girls.
In April, it was Afghan forces who repelled simultaneous attacks in four provinces and Kabul. In May, our countries’ presidents signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement with mutual commitments that ensure we will be allies well into the future.
While work remains, none of this would have been possible without the American men and women who volunteered to serve here. People like Paul Folmsbee, our senior officer in regional command east, and Karl Rios, head of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Logar Province. Both work closely with local government, security, business, civil and religious leaders. On April 15, during a meeting with the provincial governor, Karl and Paul spent 12 hours under heavy fire. They sent me a stream of updates and at 2 a.m., still under fire, Paul was evacuated with a badly wounded Afghan soldier. Karl remained on site until dawn, when Afghan forces suppressed the last of the attackers. And once they got the all-clear, both returned to work.
This team is motivated by a desire to make a difference for others. A civilian officer in the east is helping facilitate a program to teach 200 madrassa high school students basic computer and Internet skills to better connect them to job opportunities and to the outside world. “When I touched the mouse for the first time and put my eyes on the monitor screen,” said one student, Fatima, “I felt that I was flying to the sky and seeing a new world of brightness, which gave my heart much happiness.”
While our civilian employees are considered targets, we have not simply hunkered down. Regional security officers and drivers risk their lives to support more than a hundred daily engagements, essential to diplomacy, between Americans and Afghans in Kabul and beyond. I was humbled by their work during the attacks against our embassy in September and April, when I joined them in the operations room.
Despite the danger, our civilian and military personnel, working with their Afghan counterparts, regularly travel “outside the wire,” helping Afghans refurbish homes, canals and irrigation systems left dormant or damaged by the insurgency. For International Women’s Day, civilian Jessica Brandt and her military counterpart, Lt. Col. Barbara Crawford, worked with female Afghan partners to stage an empowerment event for more than 400 women.
The U.S. commander, Gen. Marine John Allen, also recognizes the commitment of our civilians. “Many of the men and women of the State Department serve out in the field, riding in the same vehicles as our Marines and soldiers, living in very austere forward operating bases, exposed to the same hardships and the same dangers that our military personnel face. And yet they go unarmed,” he said. “I cannot praise them highly enough. Without them and this close relationship, we would not be able to accomplish all we have so far.”
I’d also like to thank the 859 Afghan staffers who risk their lives every day to work for the betterment of their country and ours. It takes a special kind of heroism for them to serve alongside us. Taj, for instance, has worked for the U.S. government for more than 20 years; he returned from Pakistan after the fall of Taliban as the first local staffer in the reopened embassy. His outreach to imams to discuss religious tolerance and women’s rights under the Koran is achieving measurable results in fighting extremism. Reza helps connect embassy leadership with politicians and thought leaders, supporters and critics, to hear their concerns and ideas.
Working alongside some of the most committed and determined people that Afghanistan and the United States have to offer has deeply enriched the last assignment I will take in the service of my country. It has left me confident about the future of their nation and ours. I have served in a lot of hard places, with a lot of very good people. None has been better than those I have been privileged to call my colleagues here.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
New Location for Youth Awards Ceremony
The 2012 Youth Awards Ceremony will still be held at the State Department but this year it will be in the George C. Marshall Conference Center.
If your child/children received an unaccompanied tour medal of recognition in 2012 you should have already received e-mail notification of the July 20th Youth Awards Ceremony. Even if you did not receive the notification of this year’s event, we hope you will attend if your child already has received a medal of recognition or is eligible to receive one. To attend this event, please register at http://www.state.gov/m/dghr/flo/c37622.htm.
If you have any questions, please contact
Deadline to RSVP is close of business Monday, July 16.
The George C. Marshall Conference Center is located in the portion of the Harry S Truman Building known as The Old State at the 21st Street entrance 21st and C Streets, NW. George C. Marshall was Secretary of State in 1947 when the Department relocated from its historic placement in the Old Executive Building next to the White House to the Foggy Bottom section of Washington, DC.
Today’s words of wisdom from George C. Marshall
Don’t fight the problem, decide it.