Three months or 100 days have passed since you arrived at your new post as an AFRICA OSC and you now know enough about your partner nation to begin effectively accomplishing your mission. You should have a basic understanding of the programs that your country participates in, any upcoming exercises you will participate or host, and any obstacles you will regularly encounter in executing the duties assigned to you under the Foreign Assistance Act, Section 515.
During your first 100 days, you moved (and maybe your family) to a foreign country, began using the language skills you were taught possibly a few years ago, adjusted to the culture shock of the country you are in, and finally settled into your new assignment. You now know who your subordinates are and their strengths or weaknesses; and the same for your locally employed staff, the Senior Defense Official, and other embassy staff members. The first thing you should do during your second 100 days is revalidate any assumptions or opinions you made of all the personnel you work for and with. More often than not you have made some hasty assessments, which once revalidated will either be revalidated or reanalyzed. This is the single key part to your success over the remainder of your tour.
You more than likely now have about two to four conferences scheduled to attend. You should ensure your desk officer either at the component or combatant command has fully briefed you on what their higher’s expectations of you are; what products are required to be submitted and briefed; and you are planning the logistics of these trips. Take the time to think about what you want to accomplish during each of these conferences. Who do you want to have a sidebar discussion with? Who do you want to go to dinner with? What area of Security Cooperation or Assistance are you lacking in and who can help you understand it more? What medical issues can you solve while also there, ID cards, DLPT, etc? You are leaving the continent and going to Europe – is there anything you, your spouse, or any other embassy member needs you to buy? Think jock straps for soccer, lemon-lime juice for cooking, whiskey for the SDO, cheese for pizza night for a fellow OSC who isn’t coming, etc. Is there anything you can take to Europe for anyone? (Think mail and go talk to the CLO before you depart). Lastly, think about these conferences as evaluation makers (or destroyers). Watch the bar time and talk, practice your elevator speech before arrival, and prepare a handout for everyone. I love the country factsheets or storyboards. Use this opportunity to “sell” you, your partner nation, and your country team. Never, ever, ever, talk bad about anyone, anything, or how the combatant command hasn’t settled your latest TDY voucher. Complainers are not leaders. Leaders know how to complain without complaining.
Will the fire hose stop?
For some AFRICA OSCs the fire hose will never stop, for others, it will, and even others will just turn it away and stop drinking. If after 100 days you still feel as though you are overly overwhelmed there may be a problem. If you feel somewhat comfortable in your new post but aware of the areas where you are lacking knowledge, then you are headed in the right direction. If after 100 days you are already burned out and complaining about the local traffic patterns, how your (insert whatever here) hasn’t arrived, isn’t working, doesn’t like you, etc., well…. you probably have hit your ceiling and you need to accept that and plan for your center mass evaluation and eventual movement out of your Service branch. Security Cooperation and Assistance takes at least five to ten years to master and at least two to three posts to gain the understanding from the tactical (implementer) to the strategic (policy) level. Don’t be afraid to ask a question, because you are not the only one having these issues.
Working with the front office
By now you have already established your reputation with the front office, but there is still a little time for you to improve it. Of course, there is always time for you to ruin it. Most AFRICA OSCs will have an office call weekly with the front office. You should think about what you want to present and what you want to say. I spent an hour each week preparing for 15 minutes, and it paid off. Think about what questions your brief will create in their minds and prepare answers for them. Think about things they might not know already and prepare short and informative briefs to them. You should leave their office every week with the confidence that they believe in your abilities. Sometimes there are personality issues. If that is the case, then I highly suggest you reach out to the already established mentor network for advice.
Dealing with promises
You are #20, #40, or #1 of the AFRICA OSCs your partner nation has worked with. More than likely they have kept the same position for the past three to four AFRICA OSCs and they know more than you about what has been promised, what has been received, what has been denied, and what has been forgotten. You are at a historical disadvantage and you will have to work through this. How do you do this? Well, first of all, go through SCIP and know what SC or SA activities we have done. Then talk to your desk officers to get a better understanding of things. Lastly, talk to the previous four to five OSCs. More than likely this new request may be an old one, or not. Either way do your homework.
Senior Leader Engagements: your notes ahead of time should identify any outstanding issues that may (or may not) be presented to your SLE. Your read ahead notes should stop any SLE from over committing or under-committing. Your goal with an SLE is to have some follow-on engagements which allow you the time and space to conduct the research you need to do to fully answer the question your partner nation asked.
Be prepared for the secret ask. I’ve sat in on dozens of meetings and almost all of them has had a secret ask that no one was ready for. Smile, tell the Generals “Yes we will discuss this further with our counterparts” and move on to the next subject. Follow up and follow up.
Shepherding the transition of a BPC case
DISCS taught you the FMS system and all the tools you need to execute a case, but they can’t help you dissect your country and the situations you will encounter. As an AFRICA OSC, the biggest thing you should tackle first is to understand what open FMS/ pseudo-FMS cases you have. Hopefully, you received a great turn over and your NCOIC is tracking everything, and during your 1st 100 days, they have updated you. If not, then you need to lean on your component and combatant command desk officers. The biggest thing you want to avoid is equipment arriving and you don’t know what it is for, or trainers arriving and you don’t know who they are training. I’ll cover this more in my next post.
Your Second 100 days’ matters more than your first 100. Why? Well everyone gave you a “pass” during the first 100, but at the same time evaluated you as to what you could do. It is the same measurement as the US President, but with lesser complications and effects. Stay focused on four things: communications (CCMD, Components, partner nation, and Front Office); integrity (driver’s cam, counseling, duty, etc.); knowledge (programs, assessments, Section 515); and self (family, weekends off, don’t check email, plan vacations, etc.). You’ve hopefully taken the time to tour the country, meet all the Generals, Colonels, and and even taken a picture next to the national flag on a boat provided by the USG. What does all this mean? Lastly, look back on all the emails, evaluations, assessments, etc. by your predecessor. Are they correct? Are they skewed? What is the difference between your personalities that might change any of these?