It appears that I am only getting around to having anything important to say about once a month. I really wanted to do a bit better than that but as I've been saying, talking about the things going on around me can be a bit challenging. Today, however, is going to be a bit different. I am going to attempt to relay to you a particular account of something I've done here, how the FAO training program helped me to do it, and why that is so significant.
When I first arrived in Baghdad, the boss met with his CAG team for the first time so that he could learn the new names and faces of those he had not previously worked with and get a feel for what they would be doing for him. When it came time for me to introduce myself he learned that I was "his FAO" and that at that point I had not been assigned any duties that one would consider to be in line with a FAO skill set. He got a concerned look on his face and said something to the effect of "no, that's not right. I think we can find something better for you to do. I want you working on 'X'... we'll work on that together". I can't tell you what 'X' is, but it is something that would make you think "yeah, that sounds FAO". Now, I have to pause here for a flashback...
January, 2010... When I arrived in Jordan for ICT I met several FAO's currently assigned there. One of them, who shall remain nameless, had a very negative opinion of the whole concept of in-country training, and thought it was a waste of taxpayer money and a year of utilization to send FAO's on a one-year vacation around their region. The regional experience, this person argued, would come through the course of one's assignments. I can tell you that this FAO had applied late in their career to become a FAO and in doing so had waivered in a bunch of previous experiences in order to meet the DLI, ICT, and grad school requirements. There was no ICT in this person's background, hence the reason for not seeing any necessity in it.
Fast forward back to a couple of months ago. While I was looking at 'X', wondering how in the world I was going to contribute something positive to it, I recalled 'Y'. 'Y' was something I learned a lot about during my time and travels in ICT. 'Y' was a unique solution to a problem that, coincidentally, bore lots of similarity to 'X'. I thought 'Y' could be a very interesting solution if adapted to 'X', so I started modifying 'Y' and when I was finished I socialized the idea with several officers in the CAG.
Lo and behold, they thought it was brilliant. I was told to put it into a briefing and show it to our boss, who in turn made his own mark on the idea and asked to see it developed, and within a short time there sat MAJ Wall, briefing a grand total of 22 stars (one of whom was THE man), all listening to how an idea that started with 'Y' could contribute to 'X'.
The moral of this story is this: don't let anyone tell you that ICT is worthless. It may sound like a sham and perhaps on some levels it isn't "fair" that FAO's take a year off to travel with tens of thousands of TDY dollars while others don't get that opportunity. But I can tell you that there is a lot energy being expended in Iraq right now because top officers here heard an idea that started back when MAJ Wall was 'shamming' on ICT.
THAT, my friends, is what makes FAO's different. The exposure, the "been there" database... the ability to see beyond the borders of our own AO and find solutions. The reach-back to contacts, places, and concepts that work.
On the other side of that coin comes the burden to those of you who have yet to go on ICT: don't just look at it as a great year of recovery from DLI.
You have to take stock of the things you are seeing and learn all you can, about everything. You never know when you are going to need it.