The 101 questions proposed by the AFRICA OSC over the past two years, and some general blog statistics and analysis

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This blog will review the past two year’s topics and statistics; and the next year’s blog topics.  It also reflects upon the differences in the author’s and reader’s perspectives, and some insights as to why I do this blog.

101 questions:

General Questions

  1. Should we do this?
  2. Can we do this?
  3. Even if we can do this, should we?
  4. Can we do something else and achieve the same effect?
  5. How do I say no?
  6. Is this in the Country Coordination Plan?
  7. Is this a part of the GCC’s Campaign Plan?
  8. Why should you care what the Peace Corps is doing in your country?
  9. What does the FAM and DoS guidance say?
  10. What is the reality in an African embassy?

Country Coordination Meetings

  1. What is the purpose of this meeting, and why does the USG spend around 20k to hold it?
  2. What is being coordinated, and what are the expectations and actual outcomes of that coordination?
  3. Who should attend, and what are their roles?
  4. What expectations does the partner nation have, and how does the AFRICA OSC manage them?
  5. Should an AFRICA OSC do a Country Coordination Meeting or not?

Senior Leader Engagements

  1. What and Who is driving this engagement?
  2. What is the task and purpose of the visit?
  3. What is the Senior Leader hoping to get out of the visit?
  4. What will the partner nation expect from the visit?
  5. Are these two the same, or different?
  6. Are there any roadblocks to the visit?
  7. Can your office and the embassy handle the visit at the time they are requesting?
  8. Are there any cultural hindrances to the visit, such as Ramadan?
  9. What “Gotcha” is the Senior Leader walking into, and do we want them to, or not?
  10. Did you ask for the Senior Leader to visit?
  11. Does the Senior Leader’s staff agree?
  12. Is it a Congressional or Staff Delegation on a multi-country tour?
  13. What countries are before and after; and is there a theme to the overall visit?
  14. Is it a multiagency visit, and other agencies are coming along because of the Very Very Important Person (VVIP) is attending?
  15. Why are they coming to your country?
  16. What is expected out of the SLE?
  17. What happens if the trip is turned off or delayed?

Programs

  1. How is your event funded?
  2. What is EDA?
  3. Is EDA good for your partner nation?
  4. Defense Institution Building in Africa: Why is it so difficult? Or is it?
  5. What is Defense Institution Building?
  6. Who executes DIB in Africa?
  7. What does a DIB event look like? What is available?
  8. How would I do DIB in Africa?
  9. What programs can you execute with each of these “non-military” units?
  10. What are the 99+ Steps for the 333 process?
  11. Title 10 or Title 22? Does it matter?
  12. What is an M2M event, or better yet, what is it not?
  13. When do you submit your requests?
  14. How do you fund an M2M event?
  15. Is that training or an M2M event?
  16. When is the call out message for the program?
  17. When is the proposal or concept sheet due?
  18. How long does it take to get approved?
  19. What agency or Component executes it?
  20. What is the maximum amount of funding it allows?
  21. What does that funding allow (training, familiarization, PKO, etc.)
  22. How much control over the scope of the program do you have, the partner nation, or the Component or agency charged with executing it?
  23. How can one program influence the other, and what is required from another program to affect the other?
  24. How can you use Senior Leader Engagements to assess and develop the CPPM?

English Language Labs

  1. What is the purpose of your English language training program?

Leadership

  1. What is dissent, and is it good or bad?
  2. What should you do when your dissent is not acknowledged?
  3. How do you prove yourself wrong to be a part of the larger team?
  4. How do you graciously walk away from an assignment?
  5. How should you reflect afterward on how you walked away?
  6. Do you remember when you finally took Company command?
  7. Should an OSC smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or wear 80’s rock band t-shirts?
  8. Furthermore, should an OSC cuss, party all night with the locals, or hang offensive items from their personal or GOV issued vehicle?
  9. What is considered the acceptable behavior of an OSC and their NCO’s when working in a U.S. Embassy?

Professional Development

  1. Who are you as an FAO and Army Officer?
  2. What does “Most Qualified” really mean?
  3. What is your “personal brand”?
  4. Are you a professional military Officer?
  5. How do you represent the profession of arms?
  6. Do you instill confidence in others by the way you act, speak, carry yourself?

Continuity

  1. What is the continuity book?
  2. How does one find or build a continuity book?
  3. Why is there so much emphasis yet so little guidance on continuity, and where can we look for direction?
  4. Did you pay all your bills, finish all the necessary evaluations, and clean out your desk thoroughly?
  5. Did you leave the office a better or worse place than when you arrived?
  6. Did you make the unit better, and did you improve the relationship with the partner nation?
  7. If you felt the need to throw the lighter on the ground and burn the place down, why was that?

Conferences

  1. Who do you want to have a sidebar discussion with?
  2. Who do you want to go to dinner with?
  3. What area of Security Cooperation or Assistance are you lacking in and who can help you understand it more?
  4. What medical issues can you solve while also there, ID cards, DLPT, etc.?
  5. You are leaving the continent and going to Europe – is there anything you, your spouse, or any other embassy member needs you to buy?

Components and Combatant Commands

  1. Who is your PAO?
  2. Answering the simple but difficult questions: What is (insert Combatant Command name)?
  3. How do you quickly tell the organization of our military in Africa to our partner nations?
  4. Before or After (OSC Chief or Desk Officer): Which one is more important to do first?
  5. What are the advantages of being on staff first?
  6. What are the disadvantages of being on staff first?
  7. What are the advantages of being an AFRICA OSC first?
  8. What can you learn by being on staff?
  9. What can you learn by being an AFRICA OSC?
  10. What does shut up and row mean?
  11. Who is the Angry Staff Officer?
  12. Who is the Effective Staff Officer?
  13. How can you and your AFRICA OSC be battle buddies?
  14. What are the types of exercises and how are they funded?
  15. Tossing aside the aspects of small unit leadership of your personnel in your office, and merely looking at the systems you have in place to track, organize, and coordinate your office – what methods work best for your office?

Conclusion

  1. What does all this mean for an AFRICA OSC?
  2. Why does this post matter to an AFRICA OSC?

I often ask myself #100 and #101.  I try not to get caught up in the statistics of things, but it is interesting what I have learned from my readers.  I read comments but find most often that those who comment on the post, or on Facebook, have merely skimmed the blog and either made a hasty analysis of the blog or just put their analysis/comments of the title of the blog.  I can tell when the commenter has actually read the blog or not.

That brings me to my titles. I like to do things in “parts” and for some people that drives them crazy.  I have a “blue line to the Pentagon rule” for my blogs – if they can’t be read on the subway in 10 minutes then what are they worth?

I’ve found the deep/technical AFRICA OSC stuff is often unread or is surged before significant security cooperation and assistance conferences.  Some of it is duplicative from the training we get, but I hope to give personal insights from doing just about every program an AFRICA OSC could do.  I think honestly that most of them are just too much for most AFRICA OSCs to absorb during their first tour. I’ve found the transitional blogs are those the reader’s most focus on: continuity and PCSing. It is such a firehouse perhaps people are concerned about coming in and going out.

This year’s posts

The first year I wrote this blog I was very oriented towards the technical side of being an AFRICA OSC, and as I look back on the second year, it seems I have focused more on the leadership and “self” of being an AFRICA OSC.  I spent some time re-reading them, and cursing for every typo I found (even after editing them four to five times!).  Of the 15 blogs, three had guest authors, which is where I’d hoped to take this; however, I’ve found that most people aren’t bitten by the writing bug as I am.

  1. August 16, 2018: Reflections on my blogs and suggested articles from the past year
  2. August 29, 2018: Preparing for the next battalion: Lessons learned in peacekeeping training
  3. September 3, 2018: Who are you as a FAO and Army Officer?
  4. September 22, 2018: Answering the simple but difficult questions: What is (insert Combatant Command name)?
  5. November 17, 2018: The OSC Weekly Battle Rhythm: Tools of the trade
  6. December 3, 2018: The Deputy Sends…
  7. December 21, 2018: Before or After (OSC Chief or Desk Officer): Which one is more important to do first?
  8. January 4, 2019: Remembering who you are when you are far from home
  9. January 15, 2019: Never order the Spaghetti Bolognaise: My rules for traveling in Africa
  10. February 5, 2019: The Country Coordination Meeting: Roles, Responsibilities, and Expected Outcomes
  11. February 19, 2019: Dissent, Diversity, and Agility: When are these appropriate and necessary; and how do they apply to the AFRICA OSC?
  12. March 6, 2019: How do you walk away?
  13. March 22, 2019: A suggested reading list for a new AFRICA OSC – if you have the time!
  14. April 13, 2019: Excess Defense Articles in Africa
  15. June 15, 2019: Senior Leader Engagements: Keep Calm & Carry On

So why do I do this? Well, honestly, I don’t know.  I just enjoy it, and it is very reflective for me as an AFRICA OSC. I’m a case study kind of person, and I love conducting After Action Reviews (AARs) and looking for ways to improve, because that is what the United States Army has taught me to do over the 20+ years I have been in it.  So with that said, let’s look at the statistics:

Started August 25, 2017

Stats:

2019 (6 months): 1,900 views, 877 visitors, 1 like, 1 comment

2018: 4,453 views, 2,393 visitors, 3 likes, 6 comments

2017 (6 months): 1,023 views, 323 visitors, 1 like, 1 comment

So over two years, 27 people have decided to follow the blog – which means they get immediately notified when I publish something.  7,376 people actually read at least one blog.  5 people liked at least one blog.  8 people felt it necessary to comment on a blog.  Over 25,000 people have looked at the site.  As I’ve never set a goal for the blog concerning numbers, these seem ok for me.  As a writer who writes a blog for others, but also for myself, these statistics are just that, numbers.  What I really loved was when an AFRICA OSC told me, “I wanted to personally thank you for your recent piece.  It resonated strongly with me because it echoed some of the experiences I went through during my last tour. You made me feel less alone, and I thank you for it.” What he didn’t know when he told me that was he made me feel less alone as well.

I took a bit of time to compile the numbers of each blog to see which ones were read the most and which ones weren’t.  Before doing so, I made a list of the blogs I thought were my best and the ones I thought every AFRICA OSC should read.  I was a little shocked at the difference in my opinions and what the readers actually read, but in the end we are all on our own separate journey and each of us seek information out differently.

Top views:

  1. So You’ve Got Orders: 694 (this blog was also published/shared on multiple other sites by the guest author, which contributes to its #1 status)
  2. Continuity: 308
  3. French Defense Cooperation in Africa: 180
  4. Defense Institution Building in Africa: 176
  5. What are the 99+ Steps for the 333 process: 176
  6. Professional Development Opportunities for Foreign Area Officers: 173
  7. Operationalizing the CCPM III: 166
  8. Never order the Spaghetti Bolonaise: 136
  9. The Should List: 128
  10. Remembering who you are when you are far from home: 117
  11. Who are you as an FAO and Army Officer?: 116
  12. A suggested reading list for a new AFRICA OSC: 108
  13. The Ten Commandments of Working in Africa: 108
  14. Contact: 99
  15. Key OSC Terms of Reference: 91
  16. The OSC Weekly Battle Rhythm: 85
  17. Becoming an OSC Part 1: 83
  18. Getting to Yes: 82
  19. Before or After (OSC Chief or Desk Officer): 78
  20. Your 1st 100 Days as an OSC: 73
  21. Helpful tips for an OSC to work less: 72
  22. Operationalizing the CCPM II: 70
  23. The Deputy Sends…: 63
  24. The Second 100 days: Making your mark: 60
  25. OER evaluation measures from the CCMD Senior Army FAO: 56
  26. The Country Coordination Meeting: 56
  27. Reflections on my blogs: 56
  28. Dissent, Diversity, and Agility: 55
  29. Becoming an OSC Part 2: 49
  30. Operationalizing the CCPM I: 47
  31. How do you walk away?: 46
  32. Excess Defense Articles in Africa: 42
  33. Preparing for the next battalion: 40
  34. Tips on how to execute a proponent’s exercise: 39
  35. What is an M2M event: 38
  36. Answering the simple but difficult questions: 36
  37. Understanding Security Networks in Francophone Africa: 34
  38. Operationalizing the CCPM IV: 31
  39. English language labs: 30
  40. Becoming an OSC Part 3: 30
  41. Senior Leader Engagements: 30
  42. Who is your PAO?: 10

The blogs I think OSCs should read:

  1. Key OSC Terms of Reference (#15)
  2. The Country Coordination Meeting (#26)
  3. Your 1st 100 Days as an OSC (#20)
  4. Getting to Yes (#18)
  5. Operationalizing the CCPM III (#7)
  6. Remembering who you are when you are far from home (#10)
  7. Continuity (#2)
  8. What are the 99+ Steps for the 333 process (#5)

Conclusion

I’ve tried to make this blog site more about the content and less about the author.  This has confused some people, mainly those outside of the AFRICA OSC community, as you can see 99 people clicked the “Contact” button, yet only one person actually filled out the form and hit send.

This next year I plan to publish the following blog topics, guest authors are always welcome, as are other suggested subjects.

  1. The Roles of the Senior Defense Official (SDO) in a Country Team
  2. Africa Security Assistance and Security Cooperation Programs: Helpful Tips and Best Practices
  3. Falling Into FAO Traps
  4. Managing Expectations: Creating, Solving and Eliminating Problems Created by AFRICA OSCs
  5. CTPF, E-IMET, IMET, and MTTs: How to Align and Manage These Small but Important Touch Points
  6. End-Use Monitoring in Africa
  7. What’s Up With All This Campaigning Going On?
  8. Knowledge Management – Why It Is Important
  9. International Partners – British (Defense Engagement)
  10. The 3D Approach –Successfully Integrating the Country Team into DoD  programs
  11. What’s Up With All These FAMs That No One Follows?

2 Comments

  1. Now that I’ve finished the training and have arrived in country for my first OSC gig, I will be going back through a lot of your posts since now the acronyms and jargon will make a lot more sense. Thank you for taking your time help the rest of us out!

    Like

  2. Now that I’ve completed the training and arrived on continent and more of your content makes sense to me, I’ll be re-reading many of your posts. Thanks for the help, it’s much appreciated!

    Like

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