MONTEREY, CA, UNITED STATES
MONTEREY, Calif. - Rear Adm. Douglas Venlet, the Navy’s senior foreign area officer, said that “FAOs don’t kick in the door, we open it from the inside,” while speaking to more than 140 multi-service members and their spouses who attended a weeklong Joint Foreign Area Officer Course at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center June 9-14.
“Have patience and build those relationships,” Venlet recommended to officers who attended the event designed to prepare them for becoming military attaches at U.S. embassies around the world.
FAOs are a specialized group of officers from all service branches who possess a set of skills that come from a training program that involves formal study of a language, a period of in-region training in their area of responsibility, and attaining a master's degree in a field compatible with their focus. Because of their expertise, FAOs normally serve in U.S. embassies around the world either as security assistance officers or as military attaches.
This year, the course also involved spouses and included a three-day targeted program of instruction including cross-cultural competence and familiarization with U.S. State Department operations abroad.
“I encourage you to get out” and venture into the foreign communities where the FAOs will be stationed, said Venlet, in response to a question posed by a spouse asking if there were specific regulations regarding interaction with locals.
“But not every country is safe,” he said, recommending to inform the U.S. Embassy before going out into communities deemed to be of high risk .
“The most important thing to remember is to have a good attitude. Your attitude and how you face the day, every day of your life. A positive attitude will win the day every time,” Venlet said. “Learning the culture is a life-long commitment, not just something you are told to do and you read a bit here and there.”
Because officers’ spouses often play an important role in the hosting or attending of foreign dignitary events, it is not uncommon for them to attend the same foreign language course and learn the culture of the nation where they will be stationed as a family.
During the first day of the course, Army deputy director of Strategy, Plans and Policy, G-3/5/7, who oversees the Army FAO program, Maj. Gen. Bryan Fenton, addressed Army FAOs and gave them an overview of the future of the program and their strategic importance as “global scouts.”
“Maj. Gen. Fenton explained that as the Army downsizes, it must maintain its lethality by focusing smarter on its key missions, including global presence and engagement. FAOs serve as irreplaceable assets in the Army’s future global footprint, especially in the recent Army chief of staff’s initiative known as RAF, or Regionally-Aligned Forces,” said Capt. David Sinclair, an Army Eurasian FAO preparing to go to Europe for his in-region training.
“This event is crucial for new FAOs because it is their very first introduction to the FAO world. Once officers are accepted into the program, they are given a global area of specialty and they come to DLI for a language. At this stage, they are still new to the profession,” he explained.
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