Becoming an OSC Part 3: The first week as an OSC – your new staff

AWC 2014 OSC Crew

Now that the fire hose attack is over, it’s time to move to Africa and drink from many more hoses. As you are boxing up your books at DISCS, hopefully, they are full of highlighted sentences and book marks. More than likely they are not. DISCS is a four or more month course compacted into four weeks. Why? Well, the age old saying “it depends” is highly relevant here. Three-fourths of the stuff you just learned you are likely to encounter once over the next two years. What you need to know depends on your country, and what the USG is doing there. Therefore, it is recommended that you don’t pack up one of those books and take it with you instead. In Africa, the main book you need to be aware of is the Security Cooperation Programs book and the Green Book, which the latter is available online. Now that you are a “fully trained” OSC, it is time to meet your new employees. The focus of this part of the series is explaining who your Locally Employed Staff (LES) are, what they do for you, and suggestions of what to do your first week arriving to post.

Your Locally Employed Staff

Weeks before you arrive you have already started working with your future employees. More than likely they have processed the paperwork to set up your house, and are preparing for another “change of command.” A majority of the OSCs in Africa are filled with first term officers, which means that your LES’ get a new, inexperienced, and more than likely different personalities in their boss every two years. It sounds a lot like the military, except they never change their location. They were there before you arrived, will be there more than likely the whole time you are there and will start the cycle again when you leave. It is as stressful for them for you to arrive and leave as it is for you. Never forget that.

Who are they and what do they do? Locally Employed Staff are just that – locally employed staff members of the United States Embassy. They are citizens of your assigned country who have been hired to augment the Embassy mission. They serve numerous positions throughout the embassy from the consular’s office, to the guard of your house, to the Ambassador’s driver. As an OSC, they are your link to the partner nation. You cannot do your job effectively without them. They are not your subordinates; they are civilian employees, don’t treat them like you would a Private.

Most OSCs in Africa will have only a few LES’, but every office should have two primary staff members: the training manager and budget/admin manager. Bigger OSCs will have assistants, maybe even a driver, and some other OSCs will have a Defense HIV/AIDs Prevention Program (DHAPP) manager.

Culture. During your travels and before arriving to post hopefully you have researched the cultural aspects of your partner nation. If you are in a predominantly Muslim country you may have two weekly schedules to work with: your partner nation from Sunday through Thursday and the United States and Germany from Monday through Friday. Your partner nation may also have different work hours you have to keep in mind when working with the partner nation’s military; however, your LES’ will work regular US Embassy hours.

During the first week when you are getting settled in it may be helpful to have each LES brief you or go over their jobs and all the “ongoing” activities. You will soon find they need your signature a lot, and you more than likely now have your own stamp! Nothing gets done in Africa without a stamp over your signature. Below are some areas you should talk with each of them about before you get too far along in your first month there.

Budget / Administration Manager. This LES has also been to DISCS and should go every year for refresher training. He regularly works with the AFRICOM J5 and is responsible for anything from your house to your vehicle, to supplies, etc. The first thing you should understand is who all is contributing to your office. Although all your money will come from the Department of Defense for expenses it more than likely will come from different sources. For example, most likely all of your bills as the OSC are paid for by DSCA. This originates from the 3.5% fee they place on FMS cases. Your OSC NCOIC probably is funded through AFRICOM Operations & Maintenance (O&M) funds, your DHAPP Manager is supported by DHAPP program funding, and your Bi-lateral Affairs Officer from the State Partnership Program may come from another pot of money. You’ll need to know all these accounts and ensure their budgets are appropriate. A couple of things you should ask them specifically about are what your EUM TDY budget is; the age of your vehicles and when they are due for replacement; if you have any entertaining/social funds; and what your family leave budget is. The latter is important, especially if you are a family of four replacing a single person. Overall, your LES should be able to explain all of this.

Training Manager. This LES more than likely works with the host nation military on a daily basis. They execute all of your IMET, conference, seminar, or any other type of event the embassy has invited the partner nation to attend. There will be a particular process for your partner nation, which is more than likely different in each country. One of the things you should ask them is to explain the nomination process, what is the protocol surrounding this, and if there have been any issues in the past, you should be aware of. This LES will do a lot of work behind the scenes that you might not see on a daily basis. This will include working with the embassy to conduct Leahy vetting, working to procure plane tickets and per diem, getting medical waivers and screenings, and preparing international travel orders. They may also work with your OSC NCOIC to execute the English language testing and English language labs. In some embassies, they also assist with FMS paperwork and distribution efforts. They should be able to go through most of the programs that you will work with over the next two years, but don’t expect them to know a lot about FMS. They have not been to DISCS.

As their supervisor, you will have to learn the Department of State’s counseling, evaluation, award, pay, medical, vacation, and work policies. There is not an online class somewhere to get smart on these, but there is a regulation – or in State talk “the FAM.” Familiarize yourself with “the FAMs.” Lastly, keep your relationship with them strictly professional. You may be tempted to have them assist you in hiring a local national, helping you set your internet up, or even take you and your spouse shopping to the local markets. None of these activities are considered work related but have been done by OSCs with their LES’. Asking for their advice is fine, but having them “help” you on a Saturday is wrong. They more than likely will feel obligated to do this and won’t complain. Hopefully, you never put them in that situation in the first place.

Now that you are settled in and have a little knowledge of what you are in charge of, it is time to present yourself to the partner nation. This blog will not cover your relationship or duties with the SDO/DATT, but you should spend a lot of time understanding their mission and guidance for your office.

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