Our Adventures in Sri Lanka

Safaris to spot leopards and elephants, swimming in the Indian Ocean, sipping tea in the mountains, and several more!

Our Nile Cruise

Starting in Cairo, we sailed to Luxor, Edfu, Kom Ombo, and Aswan.

Trouble at Sea: Our Red Sea Dive Trip in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia

The Red Sea is one of the top diving destinations in the world, but Saudi Arabia is a very restrictive country to get into. That alone would have made the trip memorable...but then things went south and the Saudi Coast Guard and a hospital got involved.

Our Expedition to Jordan

Highlights included tracing the steps of Indiana Jones into Petra, following Lawrence of Arabia into Wadi Rum, and floating in the Dead Sea.

Discovering Turkey

We emersed ourselves in Istanbul, explored the white travertines of Pamukkale, and traced history through Laodikeia, Hierolopolis, and Cleopatra's Baths.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Date of Separation Established (8 of 11)

The promotion notification came out today. Staying true to my extended metaphor, I've been  trying to gain as much altitude as possible with one engine out and the other one trailing smoke, but now we've reached the moment of truth.

Everything is quiet. The intercom squawks the fateful words: “Not selected for promotion. Not selected for continuation. Date of separation established.”

Translation: “Mayday. Mayday. We're going down!" I've already picked out a few alternate landing fields (with the Foreign Service) and have trimmed for my engine-out configuration to keep me aloft as long as possible.  But I can already tell that it's going to take some time before I can tell if I'll be able to cover that distance and have any altitude left over. 


With any luck, I'll make it into the Foreign Service. I applied for two specialist positions back in November/December 2011 and recently received word that I've been invited to both of the Oral Assessments (OA). If I pass the OA, I'll get a tentative offer of employment. Then it's a matter of security and medical clearances to get placed on the register and wait for my name to be called to begin training. So those are two options for a soft landing.

If I fail at both OAs, then I'll have a little more work in getting myself to where I want to be. But let's focus on the present situation. Or as the saying goes: "Aviate, Navigate, Communicate."

To read my Military to Civilian Transition mini-series in chronological order, Click Here.
To read my Entering the Foreign Service mini-series in chronological order, Click Here.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Promotion Board Field Message (7 of 11)

Knowing how your personnel system functions and how the information is transmitted can provide an interesting heads-up on what's about to happen.

If you've been reading this blog up until now, you're aware that I'm currently facing an "Up or Out" promotion to the rank of major. Information has been slowly trickling in, and the promotion board release updates so far have been:

"Mid to Late March" as of 24 Feb 12
“Late March/Early April” as of 6 Mar 12

On March 7th, I found the administrative release instructions for my promotion board posted on a Field Messages website that distributes all the personnel admin paperwork across the Air Force. I feel like I should point out that the admin release was published on March 5th, but didn't give the date when the actual results would be published. So, even though I couldn't access the actual system that those details are contained on, I was able to find the demographic overview of the people who got promoted...


The bad news: I was able to determine that there were 39 people matching my demographic data, and that only 2 of them were selected for promotion. It's also worth noting that in the more generic "Mission Support" category which includes my career field, only 5 of 124 people were selected. So that's a 5% chance of staying in, or 95% chance of being involuntarily separated.

Today, the same admin trail produced the information that "The official release date of subject board is 27 March 2012, 1400Z (0900 CDST)" and “officers who are nonselected for promotion the second time will be discharged or retired no later than the first day of the seventh month following approval of the board results. Since the President has delegated signature to PDUSD {P&R}, the mandatory date of separation (DOS) will be 30 September 2012 for captains and majors twice nonselected for promotion who do not accept continuation or are not offered continuation."

So here we are again: I’m trying to maintain altitude, but one engine’s out and I’m watching the other one sputter. One week to go before I learn whether I "live in fame" or "go down in flames." Hey, nothing can stop the US Air Force.

To read my Military to Civilian Transition mini-series in chronological order, Click Here.
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Thursday, March 01, 2012

Passing the Foreign Service QEP

Today was a good day. I received word that I passed the Qualifications Evaluation Panel for the Foreign Service Specialist Facility Manager position. Which means I get to go to an oral assessment, but one that's different from the Foreign Service Officer process I went through in November. And even though I haven't heard official news one way or another regarding the Air Force promotion board, it's nice to know that I have something (no matter how tentative) in reserve.

So, to recap the career option plans:
A: Air Force (pending favorable promotion results)
B: Dept of State-Foreign Service Officer (Didn't pass the Oral Assessment)
C: USAID-76 Mid-level (Scored too low...but I'll apply for the next opening)
C1: USAID-76 Junior Officer (Opening Cancelled...but I'll apply for the next opening)
D: Foreign Service Specialist-Facility Manager (pending Oral Assessment)
E: Foreign Service Specialist-Construction Engineer (pending QEP results)
F: Dept of State-Civil Service-General Engineer (Scored too low)
G: Dept of State-Civil Service-Emerg Manager (Still active)
H: Program Analyst-USAID [GS-14] (Not Referred)
H1: Program Analyst-USAID [GS-12/13] (Not Selected)
H2: Program Analyst-USAID [GS-13/14] (Still active)
I: Peace Corps-Director of Programs & Training Overseas (Application only after negative promotion results)
J: Peace Corps-Director of Management and Operations Overseas (Application only after negative promotion results)
K: USAID-Program Specialist [GS-14] (Lacked Grade Experience)
L: USAID-Administrative Management Officer [GS-13] (Not Referred)
M: USAID/OFDA Humanitarian Assistance Advisor/Military (Application due by 19 March)

So, as it stands right now, I'm batting .500 if you include the three jobs I haven't submitted my application to. I'm also aware that many of those denials are due to the way the government hiring system is set up. Most of them were internal agency fills, and it's likely that they knew who they wanted when they wrote the job opening...the only reason I was even able to apply was because I can claim veteran's benefits.

So, I've largely figured out what I want to do for my career, now I just have to convince someone that I can do it better than the other applicants.
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Saudi Arabia: So Far, So Good?

We're over two years in to our second tour in the Foreign Service with the US Department of State in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It's hard...

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