I've just completed Week 1 of A-100. It's been a long, hectic but EXCITING first week! For those who aren't familiar with Department of State (DOS) alphabet soup of acronyms, "A-100" is the Junior Officer Orientation Course. (In case you're wondering, A-100 was the name of the classroom where the course was previously held.) It's a five-week long introduction to the DOS with all sorts of briefings, lectures and exercises. It's been information overload but a fascinating class.
My first day of class was last Monday, when we were taken to DOS headquarters for in-processing. It was raining as we trudged from the Metro in our best suits, starring in awe as we were led into the grand lobby of DOS with flags from every country in the world. The best part of the day was when we all stood, raised our right hand, and took the oath of office:
"I ________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."
It was rather anticlimactic after the 2.5 year journey to get here. But this informal oath was done simply out of necessity: We aren't officially FSOs and can't get paid until we take the oath. But kind of like getting married by the justice of the peace followed by a grander church ceremony, we too will be having a more-fitting graduation day. On the last day of A-100, we will again take the Oath of Office, but this time in a formal event witnessed by our friends and family, with all the pomp-and-circumstance deserved.
But by far the most exciting day this week was receiving our "Bid Lists." This is a list of all the available jobs around the world. The speculation has been killing us. I'm not allowed to post the bid list, but I will say that it is VERY good. Mr. & Mrs Crab were literally GOBSMACKED!! We're now doing research, looking at all the pros and cons of each post, trying to decide which posts we should shoot for, which might be left for a future tour, etc. It's actually been easier than I thought but lots more research to do before we rank them high, medium or low.
There are 90+ diverse people in my class, ranging in age from 22 to 59 with a wide variety of backgrounds. At my FSOA, I remember being quite intimidated by the backgrounds of my fellow testers. My A-100 class is no different: We've got career attorneys from prestigious firms, folks with PHDs from Ivy League universities, people who have been wanting and training to be FSOs since they could talk, and people such as Mr. & Mrs. Crab who have lived and worked around the globe. But the VAST majority of my classmates are "mere mortals," folks like myself with just a BA from less-prestigious colleges, people who have very little or no foreign travel experience, folks who most recently were waiting tables or unemployed, and some young men and women straight out college for whom the Foreign Service is their first job they've ever held! It just proves the point that DOS tries to stress: everyone has a chance. I've had the opportunity to meet and socialize with many of my classmates and I'm just thrilled to bits to be working alongside such a great group of people.
That's all for now because, quite frankly, I've only slept 5 hours a night every day this week. But so far, it's been well worth it!
PS: In case you're wondering, the photo above is the statue of Benjamin Franklin - America's first diplomat - located at the Foreign Service Institute.