For foreign service friday this week I thought I would share what lead to our decision for Chris to do an unaccompanied tour and how that lead our next post as a family being Sydney, Australia. For the none foreign service reader every few years we go through a process called bidding. Each tour after your first two you are again applying for positions. You technically have a job but you need to be assigned to an embassy. You are given a list of openings that match your position level (determined by promotions, time at work etc.) and you have to “bid” on them. Essentially you contact the appropriate person at the embassy and send them your resume and a letter about yourself. If you have contacts who know people at that embassy now is the time to ask them to shoot an email on your behalf or pipe up about your awesomeness and super powers. They decide who will be the “best fit” for the job and they get it! Obviously you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket so generally you rank your choices and put the most effort into your top selections. (I should also mention that you are expected to serve in some hard ship posts if you want to make senior foreign service. Timor was our first and now Kabul will be our second.)
There is one way that you can “bid” ahead of everybody else, you first serve in what is called a priority bid post. These posts are hardship posts that are usually unaccompanied and more often then not dangerous. There are HUGE drawbacks to these locations: you’re away from your family for months at a time, you are constantly at risk, you are usually isolated and have to remain on the embassy compound etc.
Why in the world did we chose for Chris to do a tour in Afghanistan you wonder? First I should mention that just like any other position Chris had to bid on the position he secured in Afghanistan. That means there were several other people who wanted this job. Chris is in the Management cone in the foreign service. This means anything you can think of that goes into the actual running of an embassy (hiring, firing, maintaining, motor pool, housing etc) is under the management umbrella. Unfortunately you do not get to choose where you go your first tour so instead of a management position he was the Political/ Economic/ Consular and acting Public Diplomacy officer in Timor. That is LITERALLY every other position you can be in the state dept except for the one he was originally slotted to be. Next we came to Paris where he has been doing a consular tour (visa’s, American Citizen Services etc). This means we would be going into our third tour with little to no management experience “competing” with others who have at least one tour if not two under their belts. Not a super awesome position to be in. The management position Chris will be in while serving in Afghanistan is one that really intrigues him and he will get TONS of great experience. This was probably our biggest reason for going after this position. What helped ease the decision were the, I guess you could call them, “perks” of doing an unaccompanied tour. First there is pay, depending on your location you can receive upwards of 80% of your pay on top of your normal salary. This is huge for those of us who are still trying to pay off those pesky law school loans. Additionally we will be paid a separate maintenance allowance. This is because a lot of people in the state department, due to our transient lives, do not have homes they can return to for just one year. This is not a huge amount by any means but it is certainly helpful. Finally to help ease the pain of being so far away from each other for such a long time, Chris is given three R&R’s. This basically means that every three months he will come home for 2-3 weeks. During this time he doesn’t have to do any work and can just be with the family, of course still getting paid. The last time Chris and I were separated like this was when he served in Iraq with the army during the war. We didn’t see each other for nine months! Oh it was awful. So honestly three months at a time sounded pretty good to me ha! The final kicker is what they call linked assignments. Those who agree to serve in these posts get to bid on the next posts before anyone else. Essentially they get dibs on amazing places like Paris, Sydney, Singapore, London etc. This is exactly why we received Sydney as our next posting.
I am not going to lie and say that we are excited about this time apart. I feel like I ate a rock when I think about saying good bye at the airport. But we are trying to focus on the positives. We get to be near family for a year, something that rarely happens in this profession. We get to build up savings, which we will no doubt need in the amazing but expensive city of Sydney. Chris gets the great experience he wants to excel at his job AND I get to shop at Target again ha! So there you have it, our road to Sydney via Kabul. It should be an interesting next few years for us Crawford’s!
PS The pictures are of Chloe waiting at the bus stop to pick up the boys. The embassy changed all our light bulbs earlier that day to high efficiency LEDs and she got a hold of a few and would NOT let go of them. So random ha!