Monthly Archives: June 2012

US Senate Confirms Eleven Ambassadorial Nominees

The United States Senate on its floor wrap up for Friday before leaving town discharged the Foreign Relations Committee and confirmed the following nominees:

PN1680Derek J. Mitchell, of Connecticut, to be Ambassador to the Union of Burma.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Executive Calendar #768 Edward M. Alford, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador to the Republic of The Gambia.

Executive Calendar #769 Peter William Bodde, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador to the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.

Executive Calendar #770 Piper Anne Wind Campbell, of the District of Columbia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador to Mongolia.

Executive Calendar #771 Dorothea-Maria Rosen, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia.

Executive Calendar #772 Mark L. Asquino, of the District of Columbia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea.

Executive Calendar #773 Michele Jeanne Sison, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Maldives.

Executive Calendar #774 Douglas M. Griffiths, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Mozambique.

Executive Calendar #775 Jay Nicholas Anania, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Suriname.

Executive Calendar #776 Susan Marsh Elliott, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Tajikistan.

Executive Calendar #778 Richard L. Morningstar, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The Senate reconvenes on Monday, July 9, 2012.

Domani Spero

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US Embassy Kenya: Ambassador Scott Gration Quits Over “Differences” Effective July 28

Ambassador Gration’s statement via the US Embassy in Kenya:

It has been a great honor and a profound privilege to be a part of the U.S. State Department team for the

English: Official photograph of U.S. Special E...

English: Official photograph of U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

past three years and to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and as the CEO of Team Kenya since May of 2011.  However, differences with Washington regarding my leadership style and certain priorities lead me to believe that it’s now time to leave.  Accordingly, I submitted my notice of resignation last Monday to the Secretary of State and to the President of the United States of America, to be effective as of 28 July 2012.

Being the U.S. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Kenya has been a dream job for my wife and me.  This assignment has been the perfect opportunity to use my deep-rooted knowledge of Kenya—its people, its language, and its culture—and my diplomatic, development, security, and humanitarian experience.  Judy and I have been extremely honored to lead Team Kenya, and we wish all of you the very best as Kenya implements its constitutional reforms, holds elections next year, and proceeds with the devolution of political and economic power.

I am very proud of my 35-year career of dedicated and honorable service to our great nation, leading at all times with integrity first and the highest ethical standards.  Judy and I are looking forward to returning to the work about which we are so passionate.  But as we depart, we will deeply miss Kenya, the Kenyan people, our partners in the diplomatic corps, and our colleagues in the U.S. Mission.  Our hearts will remain here with you and with the true friendships that will endure until death.

General Gration was a national security adviser to the Obama Presidential campaign and served as a Special Assistant to the President. He also served as the President’s Special Envoy to Sudan from March 2009 to April 2011.

On February 10, 2011, President Obama announced General Gration’s nomination to serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to Kenya.  He was confirmed by the Senate on April 14 and sworn in on April 19, 2011.

The Cable’s Josh Rogin has the scoop:

The impending release of a highly critical report by the State Department’s Inspector General’s office prompted the sudden resignation Friday of U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration, according to administration and congressional sources.

The report was described to The Cable by multiple people briefed on its contents as one of the worst reviews of an ambassador’s performance written by the IG’s staff in several years. The bulk of the criticisms focused on Gration’s terrible relationship with embassy staff since he took over as ambassador in February 2011 following a controversial two-year stint as President Barack Obama‘s special envoy for Sudan. The report is complete, but Gration still has the opportunity to write a formal response before the report is publicly released, these sources said.

We just checked, OIG has not posted the report online as of 5:44 pm EST. We’ll be in the lookout for that one.

Domani Spero

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Filed under Africa, Ambassadors, Countries 'n Regions, Obama, Political Appointees, Resignations, Special Envoys and Reps, State Department, U.S. Missions

Officially Out: WH Withdraws Tim Broas’ Nomination as Next Dutch Ambassador

On April 26, 2012, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Tim Broas as the next Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  The WH released the following brief bio at that time:

Tim Broas is currently a partner at Winston and Strawn, LLP.   Mr. Broas also serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, having been appointed by President Obama in December 2010.  From 1986 to 1995, he was a partner at Anderson Hibey & Blair.  Previously, Mr. Broas worked as an attorney at Whitman & Ransom from 1983 to 1985, and at Conboy Hewitt O’Brien & Boardman from 1980 to 1983.  From 1979 to 1980, he served as a law clerk for Justice Mark Sullivan of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.   Mr. Broas received a B.A. from Boston College and a J.D. from the College of William and Mary.

On April 27, the Center for Public Integrity reported that Mr. Broas is one of 117 Obama bundlers and has raised more than $500,000 for Obama’s re-election efforts

On June 13, he had his nomination hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

Mr. Timothy M. Broas
of Maryland, to be Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Download Testimony

On June 19, 2012, the SFRC cleared his nomination and his name was sent to the full Senate for a vote.

On June 28, the WH officially withdrew Mr. Broas’ nomination:

Timothy M. Broas, of Maryland, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which was sent to the Senate on April 26, 2012.

As of June 28, the United States Senate officially posted the withdrawal:

Nomination Withdrawn: Senate received notification of withdrawal of the following nomination:
Timothy M. Broas, of Maryland, to be Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which was sent to the Senate on April 26, 2012.

Surely, a replacement can be found, and the vetting process can be started once more, but do you really want to be the next political appointee to go through that process when the presidential election in right around the corner? It seems to me like the US Embassy in The Hague may have to do without a politically connected ambassador until spring next year.  Until then, career diplomat, Edwin (“Ned”) Nolan who has been Chargé d’Affaires ad interim since September 2011 and Deputy Chief of Mission of Embassy The Hague since January 2010 will  have to do.

Update: The Center for Public Integrity is reporting that the White House has withdrawn the nomination of Washington attorney Timothy M. Broas following charges of drunk driving and resisting arrest in suburban Maryland earlier last week. He was reportedly pulled over on June 19, and was ticketed for driving 47 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone. Read more here.

Domani Spero

 

 

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Ron Capps | Back From The Brink: War, Suicide, And PTSD

Ron Capps retired from the Foreign Service and the Army reserve in 2008. During a twenty-five-year career, he served  in Kosovo, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan, just about all the hell holes on earth.  He is founder and director at Veterans Writing Project.  He blogs for the Battleland blog at TIME Magazine and in his personal blog, The Next Lost Generation.

In a 2010 issue of Health Affairs, Mr. Capps wrote, Back From The Brink: War, Suicide, And PTSD. The piece is one of the most poignant agonies of post-traumatic stress disorder I have read.  He imagined the dead coming to talk to him every night asking, “Why didn’t you do more to save us?”  He had memories of “the dead, the mutilated, the burned.”  He wrote a story where the protagonist shoots himself in the head with a pistol.  He borrowed a gun, and put a gun to his head.  A timely phone call from his wife saved him.

“When the phone rang I jumped—startled—and nearly shot myself. This was almost comic, because I was already planning to kill myself and was holding the pistol in my hand. So I would have pulled the trigger while the pistol was pointed at my foot rather than my head. The ringing phone broke the spell.”

He was afraid to ask for help, writing, “I thought I would be ridiculed, considered weak and cowardly.”  This from a man who had two Bronze Star medals and tours in Airborne and Special Ops units.

He also writes about Question 21, the one that keeps many soldiers from asking for help. This was changed under Secretary Gates but apparently some things remain the same.

The magazine won’t allow republication on the web (we asked), so go read it in full at the HA website.
Domani Spero

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Filed under Foreign Service, FS Blogs, Functional Bureaus, MED, Mental Health, PTSD, State Department, War

Quickie | Running Amok: Mental Health in the U.S. Foreign Service

Via Diplo Denizen by James Bruno (author and ex-diplomat comments on foreign affairs & writing). Mr. Bruno is the author of political thrillers Permanent Interest and Chasm and an Afghanistan thriller, Tribe; all available via Amazon Kindle:

In the second year of my Foreign Service career, I was assigned to Vientiane, Laos.  My deployment was accelerated by my predecessor’s seeking and being granted a one-year curtailment of his tour of duty because he was going bonkers.  Moreover, an admin officer had to be removed in a straitjacket after holing himself up in his house and smearing the walls with his own feces, another victim of mental and emotional stress.  I, on the other hand, thrived at this isolated outpost, our only one in Indochina five years following the fall of Saigon.  The setting was a cross between “Heart of Darkness” and “Casablanca.”  My seizure at gunpoint and brief incarceration by the authorities, which prompted a diplomatic row, was just one of the pressures at this surreal place.  Years later, in civil war-torn Cambodia, the State Dept. regularly sent a psychiatrist to post to measure our stress levels amid coup attempts, assassinations, 12-14-hour work days seven days a week and an unhinged ambassador.  At another embassy, one of our largest, the Secretary of State discreetly sent out two senior officials to gently pry our prominent career ambassador out of his job in the wake of his increasingly bizarre behavior, including public denunciations of an American ally.
[...]
In recent years, the number of Foreign Service personnel medevacced for mental health reasons has doubled.  One study revealed 15 percent of FS members suffered from PTSD.  A similar study done by the Defense Dept. found that 17 percent of soldiers returned from Iraq and Afghanistan suffered from the same condition.  As the U.S. has gotten involved in more overseas conflicts, the pressures on our diplomats have compounded.

A particularly sad case was documented in the September 2010 issue of the Foreign Service Journal.  A former military officer and tsunami survivor, this FSO was assigned to one of the most dangerous war zones six years into his State Dept. career.  He worked 12-14-hour days amid gun and mortar fire.  After being injured in a roadside bomb attack, a State Dept. psychiatrist prescribed an antidepressant for his PTSD.  But the medication caused lack of sleep, loss of appetite and high blood pressure.  When he complained about the side effects, he was prescribed a different antidepressant.  But the side effects continued and he was evacuated from post and placed in psychiatric hospitalization in Washington.  State Dept’s MED office failed to provide him with a doctor proficient in treating PTSD, so he found one on his own.  He was told he could not return to post.  Further treatment did not resolve his problem and he was medevacced again from another post.  He lives in Washington, separated from his wife, and essentially grounded for medical reasons.  His career prospects don’t look good.  This officer is convinced that, had he received better treatment, his current situation could have been avoided.

Continue reading, Running Amok: Mental Health in the U.S. Foreign Service.

Domani Spero

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US Embassy Kabul: Eileen O’Connor Moving from Afghanistan to SRAPistan?

We recently posted about the new and sparkling Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio at the US Embassy at the US Embassy in Kabul.  (See Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker “Dedicates” The Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio – to Whom?)

Our reliable Baghdad Kabul Nightingale amusingly informed us that the Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio is the only building in the complex that actually says what its purpose is, on the outside.  The Baghdad Kabul Nightingale is not counting “New Office Building” or “Existing Office Building,” aka, “Old Chancery Building,” and convinced that those two buildings were clearly not/not named by someone in public affairs.  Apparently, there are many other buildings in the embassy complex with boring names like DFAC, tower, staff housing, etc, or have state names like Michigan, Florida, etc.  The Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio is the only one that says “Broadcast Studio”; it’s the only one (at least for now) that says right on the front and the back exactly what it does.  The Baghdad Kabul Nightingale informs us that the public affairs folks over there clearly knew how to brand.

In a related but not unexpected news, word has it that Eileen O’Connor is leaving post soon, moving to DC and into the Office of the Special Rep for Af/Pak (SRAP); the late Richard Holbrooke’s old office now encumbered by Marc Grossman in Foggy Bottom.

Via US Embassy Kabul/Flickr | Minister of Border and Tribal Affairs Khalid greets Eileen O’Connor, Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy, U.S. Embassy, before the inauguration of the Access English program at Rahman Baba High School in Kabul, Afghanistan on Saturday, June 4, 2011. David Ensor is the guy with the red tie.

In any case, in 2010, we had David Ensor (formerly of CNN) over at the US Embassy in Kabul as Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy, a newly created title. He had since moved on to VOA in 2011.

He was soon replaced by former CNN/ABC correspondent Eileen O’Connor as Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy.  Don’t worry, she’s not leaving government service. If what we’re hearing is true, you will soon rub elbow with Ms. O’Connor at the State Department cafeteria.

So a now vacancy at US Embassy Kabul for a public affairs professional, huh? You can try Wolf Blitzer but you are wasting your time. Or John King who just lost his show, but it is an election year. Who wants to be in Kabul wrestling with the Taliban on Twitter when there is an Obama-Romney face off at the homefront?

We have just the right candidate for you, folks — and she’s somebody familiar, taa-daa! Dr. Liz Colton.

Dr. Colton previously worked as a journalist with firsthand experience abroad. She reported for Asia Week, a Reuters magazine, and was a London-based television producer for both NBC and ABC covering the Middle East and North Africa. She even has an Emmy for two ABC Nightly News pieces on Libya. Later she established Newsweek’s Middle East bureau in Cairo. She covered the Persian Gulf War and was even NPR’s State Department correspondent. And best of all, she is a former Foreign Service officer. One of ours.

Pardon me? Dr. Colton took the State Department to court for age discrimination? Oh heck, that’s like problematic, isn’t it?  Here’s a public affairs professional whose talents they could really use over there, they don’t need six months to get her up to speed, but she took State to court and while in an ongoing legal tussle, she was thrown off the airlock at 66… and …

But…but… DGHR is so full of nice people, surely they did not take that personally.

Domani Spero

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Filed under Afghanistan, Court Cases, FSOs, Public Diplomacy, Retirement, Special Envoys and Reps, State Department, US Embassy Kabul

US Embassaurus Baghdad About to Get Even Bigger? Like Super Big? Like LA’s Super Rock?

Mother god of thunder, what wonderful news you bring us!

The US Embassaurus in Baghdad will not just be the biggest and most expensive in the world, it is on its way to becoming super big; like that very big rock in Los Angeles now fondly called, “Levitated Mass, by the artful.

Despite official claims to the contrary of “rightsizing” the mission, this will help ensure that US Embassaurus Baghdad will continue to hold the world’s record as the biggest with the mostest.  Yes, yes, by all means — go bid there during the AIP cycle (is that about now?) while it is still the record holder.  Just so you know that US Embassy London, US Embassy Kabul and US Embassy Islamabad are all vying for that same dubious honor.  Of course, given all accommodation shown by our friends allies frienemies in Pakistan in the construction of the new diplomatic digs there, and given the potential that they would want to shave off the floors above four-five storeys, there is a fighting chance that US Embassy Pakistan will grab the record before all this is over.

Via WaPo’s Walter Pincus:

The State Department is planning to spend up to $115 million to upgrade the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, already its biggest and most expensive in the world, according to pre-solicitation notices published this month.

Remember, it has been 3 1 / 2 years since American diplomats moved into the 104-acre, $700 million facility and only four months after State officials in February talked about trying to cut back the U.S. presence there.

State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) put out a statement Wednesday saying new planning began after it was determined there needed to be “a larger population on the Baghdad Embassy compound, due to the consolidation of satellite diplomatic facilities and property around Baghdad.”
The statement added, “The consolidation takes the overall diplomatic property in Baghdad down by one-third, but increases the personnel working and living on the Embassy compound.”

Here is a quick rundown:

SAQMMA-12-R0271-:  Baghdad, Iraq, New Power Plant, Life Safety and Utility Infrastructure Upgrade Project

Estimated Price Tag: $60 – 80 million

Estimated performance period:  24 months

The project will consist of the following:

  • A central utility power plant consisting of equally sized generators capable of parallel operation
  • Adequate 21-day underground fuel storage
  • A new utility building for the generators and switchgear
  • Compound-wide electrical distribution system
  • Compound-wide site electrical infrastructure
  • Waste heat utilization program
  • Compound-wide fire main replacement and fire water distribution upgrade
  • Compound-wide domestic water system upgrade
  • Compound-wide sanitary sewer system upgrade
  • Compound-wide storm water system upgrade
  • Compound-wide telecommunications system upgrade (telephone, data, CATV)
  • New communication central office building
  • Interface with communication tower (installed by others)

The Embassy compound is approximately 104 acres, located in the International Zone of Baghdad, Iraq.  The entire compound will be affected by this project.

SAQMMA-12-R0288:  Baghdad, Iraq, Major Rehabilitation Project

Estimated Price Tag: $20 – 35 million. 

Estimated performance period:  11 months

The Major Rehab project will consist of the renovation of an existing annex building and installation of independent support systems.  The Major Rehab will include interior partitions, electrical/telecommunication systems upgrades, extensive mechanical and plumbing systems, fire/life safety installations, commissioning and certification.

The Embassy compound is located in the International Zone of Baghdad, Iraq. The annex building is a three story structure with a fourth level penthouse.  The area to be renovated includes approximately 334 net square meters and has been laid out to accommodate a Data Hall and Office Area on a 450mm high raised access flooring system

Of course, we just dedicated that US Embassy in Baghdad, remember? So three years after it was officially launched and marked its claim to fame, we already need a rehab and an upgrade?  In a place where we’re supposed to be “rightsizing” our footprint? Is there no end to this?  Yes, yes, it is still much cheaper than when troops were in that country. But that’s like splurging just because there is a fire sale!

This is, of course, the same embassy with so little influence within the Iraqi Government.  Just recently, it took a two-week bureaucratic debate before the GoI released the body of Michael David Copeland because the Iraqis insist on performing an autopsy on his remains. Man, if we can’t even get the Iraqis to compromise on the release of our dead, how can we get them to compromise on something for the living?

The AP reported that Copeland, of Colbert, Okla., moved to Iraq within the last month to take a job on an aviation project with DynCorp International under a State Department contract. His body was found in his bed on June 9, family members said. No foul play was suspected.  Copeland, a former Marine showed no obvious signs of trauma or illness but under Iraqi laws, as in other countries, local authorities must issue a death certificate before releasing a body to survivors outside the country, according to the AP.

It turns out that our largest and most expensive embassy in the world does not have a medical examiner on staff to do autopsies.

That said, must also point out that the US Embassy Barbados does not have a medical examiner on staff either but was able to convinced the host country to released the body of George Gaines shortly after his demise for an autopsy back in the United States.

Imagine if the US Embassy in Baghdad is a “normal” embassy, it would have taken months to get the body of Mr. Copeland released!  Thankfully, we have a large, effective mission at the forefront of our people to people diplomacy in the Middle East, it only took two weeks to secure a dead body.

Domani Spero

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Filed under Contractors, Diplomacy, Foreign Service, Iraq, New Embassy Compound, State Department, U.S. Missions, US Embassy Baghdad, War

Former FSO William Anthony Gooch: No Mercy for Broken Men?

On May 12, 2012, William Anthony Gooch, 52, was sentenced to 12 years in prison – the maximum he faced under a plea agreement in the Nov. 7, 2010 episode, in which Gooch rammed a Jeep into his estranged wife’s home before setting it ablaze.

What was not widely reported is that he’s a former Foreign Service officer.

In the July/August 1998 issue of State Magazine, he was listed as an “FS Specialist Intake.”  In the February 2003 issue of the same magazine, he was listed under “Foreign Service Retirements”

There is no public catalog of what happened to him after he left the Foreign Service. But apparently in 2005, while visiting Roswell, Ga., Mr. Gooch broke into his brother’s gun safe and ended up in a standoff with police where he begged to be shot.

In 2008, he reportedly shot himself in the chest, narrowly missing his heart. The suicide attempt led to a period of sobriety, and a seeming improvement, according to unnamed relatives cited in local reports.

In August 2009, Mr. Gooch was arrested after a six-hour standoff. This time, he also had a gun and was threatening suicide.

In 2010, El Paso County sheriff’s deputies told local news that Mr. Gooch crashed his car into the Black Forest home of his estranged wife, set the house on fire and then barricaded himself inside.  He was reported to be in critical condition in the burn unit at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver, according to hospital officials cited in local reports.

On May 12, 2012, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison – the maximum he faced under a plea agreement in the Nov. 7, 2010 episode.

Colorado Springs’ The Gazette had a write up on the hearing that details the unraveled life of former foreign service officer.  Excerpt below:

According to the family’s account, Gooch served in the Navy and the U.S. Agency for International Development before his 1998 transfer to the State Department, where he worked in the security office.

Within months of accepting the new post, Gooch and his family were assigned to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where tensions were mounting between warring factions, according to his son, Andy Gooch, a private first-class in the Army National Guard and senior at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The six families in their compound were eventually moved out of Kinshasa as violence ramped up, Andy Gooch told the court, describing how they were driven past the dead and wounded on their way to the airport.

His father remained behind to help evacuate other Americans and nongovernmental aid workers, he said.
Gooch told his family that he was detained and beaten by Congolese police during the ensuing choas. He said a fellow Foreign Service officer secured his release.

Later that year the family was sent to Nairobi, Kenya, where according to Andy Gooch’s account, his father helped identify victims in the wake of a 1998 bombing that killed hundreds at a U.S. Embassy.

In Nairobi, the family survived an attempted car jacking when William Gooch shouted for his wife and children to get down while he drove around a road blockade past men armed with AK-47s, Andy Gooch said.

“When I was 10 or 12 years old, I saw things most people don’t see in their whole life,” Andy Gooch said. “If I got that little piece, I can’t imagine what my father saw.”

Said Sotela: “His mental health was deteriorating through the years that he was exposed to that situation.”

Gooch’s career with the State Department ended with a medical discharge in the early 2000s after he suffered a breakdown during an assignment in Kingston, Jamaica, family members said.

According to The Gazette, Mr. Gooch addressed the court in a soft voice, apologized and said he never meant to hurt anyone except himself – by swallowing pills, shooting himself and trying to get “someone else” to shoot him.  “Jumping off a bridge is about my last resort,” he told Judge Greg Werner, before ending his comments with a pledge to take treatment seriously.

I had this story the same week that George Gaines died in Barbados.  I just could not get myself to write about two tragic episodes that same week. The prosecutor in this case, suggested in court that Mr. Gooch exaggerated his experiences in a bid for leniency.  Nothing in the press reports suggested that Mr. Gooch was diagnosed or treated for PTSD. But it says he was medically discharged after he suffered a breakdown in Jamaica.

Domani Spero

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SBU Foreign Service 2011 Promotion Statistics Officially Published, Color Specialist Gets an “F”

Remember our blog post about the promotion statistics cable that was classified as SBU?  In March, a Foggy Bottom nightingale informed us that the State Department had released its promotion statistics internally. We have not seen a copy of the cable.  We were told that the promotion stats are now protected by the following authorities:

Privacy Act of 1974 – which is terribly funny because the Privacy Act of 1974 purposely has a line that says “(B) but does not include–    (i) matches performed to produce aggregate statistical data without any personal identifiers;”

So then, somebody wrote here and asked, “How does the Privacy Act apply to a bunch of numbers?” And we had to confess that we actually have no idea — unless — a bunch of numbers are now people?

Three months later, the promotion statistics which was released in an SBU cable was published by State Magazine; this is something that the magazine does every year, by the way. Only this year, it was months late.

Why bother classifying it SBU in the first place? We did an in-depth research and finally got answers!  Simply put, cables are boooring, repeat, boooring.  DGHR wanted to release the promotion statistics in a full color spectrum; except that their Color Specialist used more dark earth tones on the 8-page spread.  What’s with that? It’s summer time, forgodsakes! Next time use something cheerful like Queen Elizabeth fluroescent lime green.  Take our word for it, it’ll get everyone’s attention. Below is the extracted stats from the magazine.

If you are not able to view the document embedded below, click here to read it on ScribD in full screen.

Domani Spero

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Filed under 2011, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, Promotions, ScribD

Rachel Schneller | PTSD: The Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Government.  Read more about Rachel here ~ DS

PTSD: The Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me

by Rachel Schneller

PTSD felt like the worst thing that had ever happened to me. I came back from Iraq in 2006 feeling damaged, like the FedEx package in the movie Cast Away that arrived at its final destination beaten up beyond almost all recognition. I didn’t know I had PTSD, I just knew that something was wrong. Everything and everyone felt like a threat. Everything made me angry and want to fight. I oscillated between sheer rage and numbness, because feeling angry all the time left me exhausted. But I couldn’t sleep much, which also made me angry.

Photo from Private Collection (used with permission)

If I had not sought out treatment for PTSD, I believe I would have wound up dead, in prison, or homeless and unemployed, carrying a sign on a street corner somewhere raging against the world. Best case scenario, I would have managed to continue to somehow drag my bitter mess of a self to work each day, where I would have made the lives of everyone around me absolutely miserable.

Don’t get me wrong, there were parts about being completely lost in my traumatized self I enjoyed. The rage and anger resulting from my experience in Iraq made me feel more alive than I had ever felt before. I was completely focused and driven and could work insane hours at high intensity like a superhero. Everyone around me seemed slow and crippled by worry, whereas I felt no pain and absolutely no fear (I also felt no joy).

After six years of rigorous treatment for PTSD, I feel now like I am both healed enough to engage with the rest of the world in a healthy way, and still aware that I went through a life-altering experience that left a permanent mark on me. I am bilingual and bicultural in PTSD. And honestly, I would not have it any other way. My service in Iraq was important and one of the most meaningful periods of my entire life. My experience with PTSD has made me more sensitive and compassionate toward other people. My treatment for PTSD helped me grow into a better person than I ever could have become without Iraq and without PTSD.

My bottom-line message on PTSD is to get treatment.  To get treatment, you need a diagnosis.  To get both the diagnosis and the treatment, you need to see a professional.  You should do all these things because they will make you a better person.  Be brave and undeterred in your mission.  Since speaking out on PTSD several years ago, I have been approached by numerous people who are suffering symptoms of PTSD and ask for advice on what to do.  I tell them all the same thing: get treatment.  Some worry that seeking treatment might impact their careers or families.  What I always say is that untreated PTSD is much more likely to ruin your career or family than seeking treatment.  Some worry about stigma attached to a diagnosis, or that they will be limited in overseas assignments.  My response is: don’t worry about things outside of your control, such as what other people think and where you might be in a year or two.  Shift your attention to the here-and-now and do what needs to be done today.

I would love to design a compassionate, comprehensive program for people with PTSD.  I daydream about doing this, where several years ago my thoughts reverted back to helicopters, rocket attacks, and endless expanses of concrete barriers.  My ability to focus has been honed through years of yoga and meditation, practices I found particularly helpful in my treatment of PTSD.  I still feel no fear, and still have limitless energy to fight for the things that are important to me.  But now I also feel joy.  And finding joy and beauty in life after surviving a horrific event is to experience joy and beauty in a deeper, more meaningful way than ever would have been possible before.  Although I could not see it at the time, PTSD was the best thing that ever happened to me.

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