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.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Backstop 25 Application Submitted

While I'm still waiting on word from the State Department about getting added to their register as a Construction Engineering Specialist, I figure that it's probably a good idea to keep applying for other positions. Today, I applied for an Engineering Officer (Backstop 25) position with USAID. It's listed as a Junior Officer position, which looks like it would involve similar work. For the sake of comparison, I ran a little pro/con list between the State Department's Foreign Service Specialist Construction Engineer (FSCE) and USAID's Junior Officer Program Foreign Service Engineering Officer (Backstop 25) positions:

Foreign Service: FSCE (Yes) = Backstop 25 (YES)
Entry Grade: FSCE (FS-4) > Backstop 25 (FS-5)
Categorization: FSCE (Specialist) "<" Backstop 25 (Officer)
Language Training: FSCE (Unlikely) < Backstop 25 (Required)
Locations: FSCE (Worldwide) ">" Backstop 25 (Worldwide)
Accompanied: FSCE (Most likely) > Backstop 25 (Not always)
Nature of Work: FSCE (Building Embassies/Consulates) = Backstop 25 (Building Infrastructure)

Both positions are in the Foreign Service, but the entry level for the State Department would be higher (more pay!) than for USAID. The win in this match goes to State.

However, USAID would give me (actually, require of me) language training, as proficiency is part of the tenuring process. That's due to it being a Foreign Service Officer position. The reason I used quotes around the Specialist vs. Officer comparison is that there are pros and cons to both, and it really comes down to what people are looking for in their job. It appears that higher status is given to the officers...but, having been a military officer, I've seen firsthand that the technicians and specialists are often the ones who get hands on with solving problems. It's that level of involvement that appeals to me more than perceived status. So I'll call that a draw because both need the other to get the job done. But USAID scores the deciding point with language training and comes back to tie 1-1.

The locations are really determined by the needs of the service. The State Department really would provide true worldwide location options, while USAID tends to focus their projects in the developing world. And because of that focus, it's more likely that I'd end up on multiple 1-year, unaccompanied assignments with the USAID job. Tough call, but State wins this round.

As for the nature of the work, it's bit of a draw: I think that USAID would probably be more personally satisfying (i.e., building a canal that provides a region with irrigation for farming) but being a FSCE would probably be more professionally satisfying (i.e., world-class facilities that play into world events). Either way, I'd be building stuff, and for me, that's satisfying.

So, the series ends with State winning out over USAID with 2 wins, 1 loss, and 1 tie. Now that I've worked through my priorities, the only thing left to do is get hired...

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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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