The “Should” List

Should an OSC chew tobacco?

Should an OSC smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or wear 80’s rock band t-shirts?  Furthermore, should an OSC cuss, party all night with the locals, or hang offensive items from their personal or GOV issued vehicle?  What is considered the acceptable behavior of an OSC and their NCO’s when working in a U.S. Embassy?

I cannot layout all the mistakes you will make as an OSC; as each country, region, SDO, and Ambassador will be different. I can lay out some FAO Urban legends that have been passed around way too many conferences. I also am not saying that drinking, smoking, dipping, or any of the behaviors below have not occurred or are wrong (minus those that obviously violate the UCMJ), or are skewed by bar talk. Here are the stories you will hear, and there will be others.  My only advice about the “should” list is: Don’t be on it.

Don’t be on the should list

Should an OSC promote his spouse’s rental vehicle company she set up without the host nation’s knowledge that charges twice the going rate, which is only known to TDY DoD personnel, and only pay the driver the going rate – thus pocketing the rest of the money?  Should an OSC and her spouse drive around the town with Halloween masks on laughing at the reactions of the locals?  Should an OSC use his government code at the embassy gas pump to fill up his POV on the weekend?  Should an OSC NCOIC start a sexual relationship with the Ambassador, and when outed by the OSC work with the Ambassador to get the OSC fired?  Should the OSC NCOIC begin a fist fight with the Assistant RSO because the ARSO told him to stop his dog from pissing on the ARSO’s porch?  Should the OSC lie about an IRT who left the scene of an accident after hitting a local national so as not to cause a stink in the Embassy?  Should an OSC complain so much about the GSO’s inability per the FAM or unwillingness to do something that the DCM volunteers to physically assist in coming to their house and do it herself?  Should the OSC drink so much that they consume more than 25% of the Embassy’s duty-free allotment from the host nation resulting in the rest of the Embassy having to pay the 25% tax rate for the remaining 30 days of the physical year?  Should an OSC’s spouse sell things like makeup etc. that were shipped through the DPO? Should an OSC wear cowboy boots, jeans, a bull riding buckle, and a Confederate Flag dew rag to a July 4th celebration event at the Ambassadors? Should an OSC not have the correct uniform and just wear whatever she has because she will be the only U.S. military member that will be present at the annual Independence Day parade?  Should an OSC lie to or pressure his OPSCO to waive the speeding violation, the new DoS GPS trackers caught him doing? Should an OSC write a counterterrorism proposal after convincing the host nation that a particular armored vehicle is what they need, only to retire and go work for that company? Should an OSC always pick one translator to provide them business then demand a back payment from them? Should an OSC NCOIC pimp foreign national hookers from the “top floor” of his DoD rented house?  Should an OSC make fun of his host nation on a social media site that is borderline racist or demeaning? Should an OSC NCOIC allow his neighbor to splice the power line from his DoD paid for house to get free power because the family is having financial problems?  Should an OSC take a week vacation in Germany after the RSWG without turning in a DA31, then lie about it when outed by his administrative personnel?  Should an OSC answer his office phone with his first name only or tell the other military members in the embassy not to call him Sir or by his rank? Should an OSC begin a shouting match with an ACOTA advisor during an STRWG breakout session? Should an OSC schedule a medical appointment during the RSWG week then no show and blame it on the conference manager for “not informing him of his appointment”? Should an OSC and his NCOIC falsify their US Army APFT forms giving each other high marks when they would quickly fail the test?  Should an OSC get drunk with the DCMO at the RSWG in Chili’s, give him his business card, then return to the hotel room and pen out a long email to the DCMO complaining about the student detachment not completing his travel voucher in time?  Should an OSC chew tobacco in an Embassy and brief the Ambassador something with a spit cup in one hand?

So…I’m the guy who during IRT who once answered the door of the OSC office I was visiting with a dip in my mouth and had to talk to the Ambassador – I swallowed the spit because I didn’t have a spit cup. I quit dipping shortly after that once I realized how unprofessional it made me seem compared to the rest of the embassy members.  It was as if I was wearing a seersucker suit in December. I was out of place and it wasn’t appropriate. So are all the other behaviors mentioned above.

Don’t be me, or any of the other Urban Legend OSCs or OSC NCOICs mentioned above

Be a military officer who upholds the same standards of conduct that you desire your subordinates to uphold. Don’t be that African OSC that goes to AFRICOM on a sudden TDY, never returns, and suddenly is reassigned to a sole service assignment in the U.S. You never want someone else to pack out your house from Africa.


This blog has been edgy, hard, and purposeful.  What it hasn’t discussed is the human aspect and cultural shock aspect of living in Africa.  Africa is not like moving to France, Brazil, or Thailand.  It is an out of this world culture shock for every American.  Every issue you may have (anxiety, drinking, bad emails, bad cultural sensitivity, racism, road rage, etc.) will be exasperated 500% during your first tour in Africa.  Africa will also make you feel alone.  I personally became cabin sick during a mandatory eight-day “stay in” the house one time.  You will consistently say: I miss this – insert the following: McDonald’s, sharp cheese, stop lights, etc.

Africa will challenge you as well physically – you may sit on the pot more than you have ever done so in life.  You may have a few new bugs in your body or on your skin. You may walk around highly dehydrated most of the time.  You may have some issues with some of the medications you are on. Your embassy will be small, you may or may not get along with the other embassy people. Overall, none of the cultural effects on you are under your control.  How you react to them is.

Urban Legend or Africa or Personality?

Now that you’ve seen the “should” list and thought about what that person was going through…

  1. This is very useful information. Many of the possible/probable actions that made you fit into the battalion or made everyone know you name are simply unacceptable outside of the that pack. Your job will not tax your skills – a solid O-2 could do much of it. However O-2s come with much of the above behaviors. Some are immature, and many including myself, just didn’t have any other examples. But things are different as a FAO. Firstly and foremost, I cannot emphasize enough that you are largely alone in your job – you will be the example (good or bad) of your Service, and you will often get vague and non-specific guidance. The Army expects that you have matured to a point where you aren’t filled with character flaws (nor your family) such as illustrated above. Don’t abuse your station/position, no matter how easy it is. Don’t be an ethical mess. Be the good example. Above all, don’t be a dick/blue falcon/whatever. Because you will be found out, and you’ll be finished. This is not a job with a checklist of “dos” and “don’ts”; you just need to know. If you need a checklist, then you’re in the wrong FA.


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