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    Foreign affairs officers: the cultural, strategic glue between U.S. and South Korea alliance

    OSAN AIR BASE, 11, SOUTH KOREA

    04.25.2022

    Story by 1st Lt. Nicolle Mathison 

    51st Fighter Wing

    Foreign Area Officers (FAO) have extensive roles and varied responsibilities. FAOs typically serve at an overseas assignment as an Attaché, a Security Assistance/Cooperation Officer, or as a Political-Military planner in a service's headquarters, Joint Staff, Major Commands, Geographic Combatant Commands, or in agencies of the Department of Defense. They provide expedited communication connections to allies and partners to coordinate foreign military sales, arrange training for nation partner service members, and engage in diplomatic meetings between military leaders.

    “INDOPACOM FAOs are instrumental, because they are able to understand the varying cultural sensitivities with intimate knowledge of Asia-Pacific culture, customs, and business norms due to their language capability,” said Maj Eugene “Sunshine” Choi, U.S. Embassy-Seoul, Joint U.S. Military Affairs Group-Korea. “They provide a faster connection with the allies/partners to build and foster effective relationships to overcome any communication obstacles that could hinder the mission.”

    Choi currently works at the U.S. Embassy-Seoul as a Security Cooperation Officer (SCO), one of three tracks available to FAOs. The SCO assignment is unique due to the accessibility it provides to the United States and the Republic of Korea agencies in order to get the job done.

    “My job is to support the US-ROK alliance by shaping the ROK military requirements and to facilitate procurement of necessary defense capabilities that are interoperable and support the OPCON Transfer Critical Military Capabilities requirements with the U.S.,” said Choi.

    As a prior maintenance officer (21A3), acquisition officer (62EX), and space officer (13S4), Choi was officially picked up as a Foreign Affairs Officer (16F4D) as a secondary career field in 2013. Soon after, he attended the Naval Postgraduate School to become a certified FAO.

    “My experiences as an aircraft maintenance, acquisitions, and space officer have enabled me to have a greater understanding of the Department of Defense as a whole, thus better preparing me to become a FAO,” said Choi.

    After Naval Postgraduate School, Choi was assigned to the United States Indo-Pacific Command and stationed at Camp Smith, Hawaii. Once assigned, Choi immersed him in different cultures within the INDOPACOM AOR. Choi was able to exercise his linguistic skills, gain regional expertise and cultural knowledge through real-time application of developing theater and global campaign plans for Korea.

    “FAOs are not translators but relationship builders who establish trust with nation partners and representatives. Our skills are crucial to the alliance because they enable us to execute operations, polices and plans in various combined environments,” said Choi.

    As a 16F4D, Choi currently manages 274 Foreign Military Sales Programs (FMS) cases worth $17.5B for the ROK through daily coordination between ROK Defense Acquisition Program Administration, ROK Service Components, Ministry of National Defense, and ROK Joint Chief of Staff.

    “The opportunity was extremely humbling. It’s not every day you get the opportunity to work with multiple foreign agencies to shape the future of the U.S.-ROK alliance,” said Choi. “Overall, with the background I’ve been privileged to build over the past 21 years, I’ve been able to effectively engage in a symbiotic relation with our allies and partners to assist in all aspect of defense. I can honestly say taking on this career track was one of the best career decisions I’ve ever made. The only one regret I have is that I’m retiring when there are exciting changes to the career field by becoming a single track position.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 04.25.2022
    Date Posted: 05.10.2022 01:31
    Story ID: 420096
    Location: OSAN AIR BASE, 11, KR

    Web Views: 29
    Downloads: 0

    PUBLIC DOMAIN