CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea – Approximately 60 U.S. Army officers from around the Korean peninsula attended an information briefing at Eighth Army Headquarters Feb. 7 to learn more about a little-known Army-career field: the foreign area officer program.
Foreign area officers, often referred to as FAOs, are regionally-focused military officers who are considered subject matter experts on international relations and political-military affairs.
“Most soldiers assigned to Army units are less exposed to foreign area officers because FAOs often work at U.S. embassies around the world or in joint assignments,” said Maj. Karen Deloria, a Japanese-language trained FAO assigned to U.S. Forces Korea.
Deloria added that by the time a prospective FAO applicant is aware of the program their window of opportunity may be limited.
“The FAO branch has begun to overcome this obstacle by conducting our own outreach activities such as attending ROTC advanced camp branch days, U.S. Military Academy Branch Day, and outreaches such as this,” said Lt. Col. Wes Chaney, FAO branch chief.
Chaney and other staff from U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky, traveled to Korea to engage with prospects and potential recruits. It would be the first FAO brief hosted by HRC on the peninsula since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The audience for the briefing ranged from first lieutenant to captain, whose window of opportunity would be open for this reassignment. Unlike many Army career fields there is no commission directly into the foreign area officer branch.
Chaney, who is trained in French and served assignments in Sub-Saharan Africa, spoke about how FAOs in the field will work with U.S. embassy staff, diplomats, and other interagency personnel in a country team to promote diplomacy and solve problems before they become disputes that could hurt U.S. foreign relations.
Maj. Matthew House, a Vietnamese-language trained FAO and the career manager for FAOs serving in the Indo-Pacific and Middle East/North Africa, elaborated more on the application and selection process, which can take time to accomplish. Future FAO applicants will be better positioned to apply and be considered if they understand and work on the pre-requisites ahead of the application window. An applicant will need to schedule a Defense Language Aptitude Battery test to determine their ability to learn a foreign language and have their scores recorded before consideration. A Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, test score is also part of the application.
The window, which is open twice a year, is only open for about a month each time. So, applicants will have to have their GRE and DLAB scores ready for submission, House added.
Both Chaney and House emphasized that the selection process is competitive because of the investment the Army will make in the FAO. The training path can take from 38 to 46 months. FAOs must complete graduate school with a degree in a regionally focused topic and complete language training at the Defense Language Institute. FAOs must also attend the Joint FAO Course at the Presidio of Monterey, California, which is an orientation to the career field.
Once their training is completed FAOs will serve globally in six geographic regions as defense attachés, security cooperation officers and political-military planners.
To publicize the event prior to the briefing, Deloria along with Lt. Col. Donald Kim, a Japanese-language trained FAO assigned to the United Nations Command, talked about the foreign area officer program on the American Forces Network Jan. 25 at Camp Humphreys.
“We are U.S. Army diplomats representing the United States Army, the United States military and the United States along with our allied partners,” said Kim during his AFN interview. “We work with our allies and our close allied partners’ staff to collaborate and to work towards the same goals that we have in our theater missions, the joint mission, bilateral missions, and multilateral missions.”
Deloria spoke on AFN about how becoming a FAO is a permanent career change that requires an Army Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program packet.
“When it comes to putting in a packet, or VTIP, you must have all your ducks in a row,” said Deloria. “That includes having your key development assignment completed, having the right background in academics or at least show proficiency in being able to complete graduate level studies.”
The foreign area officer branch relies on seasoned U.S. Army FAOs in the field for recruiting and sharing career information about the foreign area officer program.
Deloria learned about the program as an engineer officer stationed in Germany. Through international engineering and construction support services provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers she engaged with and communicated with FAOs in countries throughout Europe.
“I decided that this was something that I would be interested in because I wanted to combine my passion for travel, history, learning about other cultures, and my military passion into one job and this was exactly that,” said Deloria.
For Kim, he learned about the program before he commissioned into the Army.
“I learned about the program when I was an Army ROTC cadet in Hawaii,” said Kim, who heard about FAOs from a friend of a friend. “I was introduced to him, and we talked about the foreign area officer program, and I really thought it was a cool program.”
Kim commissioned as an Army infantry officer and later transferred to FAO when he was a captain.
Both Kim and Deloria have found their careers to be very challenging, but also enjoyable and rewarding.
“I was involved with a trilateral group of general officers from South Korea, Japan, and the U.S.,” said Kim. “Though we’re not trained as linguists to be interpreters I had an opportunity to interpret for them in three different languages.”
FAOs are also afforded the opportunity to travel extensively throughout their geographic regions.
“During my cultural immersion time frame, I was able to visit Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Indonesia in a span of two weeks. So, the travel is out there,” said Deloria.
Deloria says anyone interested in regional topics, global plans and operations, and security cooperation should consider becoming a FAO. Reach out to the FAO branch chief or visit the HRC website and search for FAO.
U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys is the “Army’s Home in Korea” and is located along the western coast of South Korea within the seaport city of Pyeongtaek, approximately 40 miles south of Seoul. Camp Humphreys is the headquarters for the Eighth U.S. Army, the Second Infantry Division, the Army’s most active airfield in the Pacific, and the hub of U.S. Forces Korea.
|Date Posted:||02.09.2023 19:42|
|Location:||CAMP HUMPHREYS, 41, KR|