“The Diplomatic Security Service’s brand new Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) on Fort Pickett, near Blackstone, Virginia is a disaster for those attending the academy. Incoming agents and those who have to attend advanced training should buckle up for a very rough ride due to a lack of planning, poor accommodations, and general haywire.
Most incoming students are housed at the Holiday Inn Express in Farmville, Virginia. Due to Covid-19, everyone is forced to remain at this little gem, conveniently located in the middle of an open field, for exactly two weeks. State calls it a “quarantine,” but no restrictions are enforced. So, the two-week lockdown is really just a waste of time and money for all parties involved. Since there is no way to keep anyone in their rooms, there is still the possibility that students could arrive at FASTC infected with Covid-19, begging the question: why bother with a fake isolation period?
Additionally, adults who are cooped up in a hotel for weeks on end with nothing to do seem to revert back to their college years of binge drinking and general debauchery. Class advisors at FASTC have openly complained that they have really gotten to know police officials in the rural one-cop town of Farmville.
Those who choose not to engage in such antics remain in their rooms with little to do but scan the 9 channels on the hotel-provided basic cable system. For an organization that purports to have a renewed focus on mental health and morale, this feels like a crisis in the making, particularly for those RSOs who are arriving from overseas posts and do not have personal transportation readily available. Walking anywhere from the hotel is not ideal unless you’re comfortable going for a stroll on the shoulder of a major highway.
As for food, take-out is really the only option, unless you’re comfortable visiting one of a few bar/restaurants that are no better than Applebees. The hotel provides no meal accommodations. If you’ll be there for a few months, expect to gain a little more than the “quarantine 15.” Also, if you have dietary restrictions, this place is not for you, unless fried chicken fingers are part of your preferred menu items.
Once your two-weeks of faux-quarantine are over, you’ll commute 45 – 60 minutes (one way) to FASTC. Students are required to shuttle themselves in government-issued vans each morning and evening. No more than five to a van (for Covid-19 safety reasons). However, many have reported cramming up to 10 in a van simply for convenience and split training locations.
The Foreign Affairs Security Training Center is a state of the art facility. The technology, instruction, resources, and training quality are unmatched by any agency and the Department should be commended for that. However, the logistical nightmare for the students must be addressed. This is unacceptable for those new to State but is probably tolerated because they don’t know any better. However, for those seasoned employees, this is categorically unsatisfactory. State and more specifically DS needs to get its act together soon and focus more on the employee rather than touting the perks of a brand new facility that may be more trouble than it’s worth.
DS already has retention and quality of life problems. Do we want to make it worse?”
Map of the high-speed driving track at the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center, Blackstone, Va. (Department of State Photo)
Training is key to preparing for emergencies. #DSSTrains @StateDept diplomats at our new Foreign Affairs Security Training Center in emergency procedures, operational planning, and basic tactical medicine.— statedeptdss (@StateDeptDSS) April 3, 2020
Check out these photos to learn more: https://t.co/vkR29vhfB1 pic.twitter.com/Hw0lOqsNub
We received the following from Sender A, writing anonymously “I would happily critique or call out any regional or functional bureau in the Department of State under my true name, but I do not believe it would be safe to do the same in this case.” The writer says he/she had over 30 years of experience with the State Department, with almost all overseas service at differential posts. Service in Washington, D.C. included top ranking positions at more than one bureau. –D
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scooplet: The Trump administration's assistant secretary for diplomatic security, Michael Evanoff, just resigned, per letter to staff. He says he got a security job for a "multinational company" and his departure is effective next week
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) July 14, 2020
A/S Michael Evanoff and DAS for Training Wendy Bashnan cut a cake to mark the occasion of the opening of FASTC, our newest (and sweetest) training facility.
— statedeptdss (@StateDeptDSS) November 14, 2019
DSS is pleased to welcome Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, Michael T. Evanoff. Welcome back! pic.twitter.com/Mggb9Ijxiu
— statedeptdss (@StateDeptDSS) November 7, 2017
— Diplopundit #WearAMask (@Diplopundit) August 29, 2017
To secure her job at the State Department in April, Chang leveraged social connections to senior officials who could help open the doors to the administration, including Brian Bulatao, a close friend and deputy to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; a State Department official and former defense contractor who she succeeded as deputy assistant secretary, Pete Marocco; and a congressional staffer for key GOP lawmaker Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, multiple sources said. Marocco endorsed her for the job and McCaul wrote her a recommendation letter.
By the time Rep. McCaul issued the recommendation letter, Chang’s nomination was moving ahead thanks to her own contacts in the administration, said a spokesperson for the congressman, Kaylin Minton.
Chang lists just $12,000 in income before she took the State Department job and listed no salary from her charity. According to papers from her divorce case in 2011, she was due to receive nearly $1,400 a month in child support and $500 in alimony per month for a year from her ex-husband, a real estate developer. She lived in an affluent neighborhood in Dallas in a high-end apartment building, former colleagues and acquaintances said.
So, whoever did Mina Chang's clearance missed a few things, it seems https://t.co/sKenrVRryh Raging dumpster fire
— james gibney (@jamesgibney) November 27, 2019
— Indivisible Austin (@indivisibleATX) November 30, 2019
Big shout out to Embassy guards & Seoul Metro Police Agency for responding to protesters who breached perimeter around my residence. 2nd incident in 13 months in Heart of Seoul. This time they tried to forcibly enter my home itself. 19 arrested. Cats are OK. Thanks @polinlove !
— Harry Harris (@USAmbROK) October 19, 2019
Terrific visit by “Tad” Davis, State Dept’s Director, Bureau of Overseas Building Operations. Here, he’s making well-deserved presentations to 2 Habib House staff who were injured in last week’s intruder incident. These 2 men exemplified our Ethos as they ”Protected this House.” pic.twitter.com/YNRFxXRlPF
— Harry Harris (@USAmbROK) October 24, 2019
South Korea Protesters Scale Walls Outside US Ambassador’s Residence https://t.co/5eSmHd0Lii
— Eric Shepherd (@erictshepherd) October 19, 2019
Students were reportedly protesting the presence — and cost — of American military forces in the country. https://t.co/EGnwup98jh
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) October 20, 2019
Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm today sentenced Steven Hadley Hassan, age 52, of Frederick, Maryland, to 40 years in federal prison, followed by lifetime supervised release, for sexually abusing minors to produce child pornography and transporting those images to the United States. Judge Grimm also ordered that, upon his release from prison, Hassan must register as a sex offender in the places where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). Hassan has been detained since his arrest on June 8, 2018.
This is a follow-up post to USCCR extends comment period for sexual harassment inquiry to Monday, June 25th and U.S. Civil Rights Commission Examines Sexual Harassment in Federal Govt (State, NASA) #FedMeToo.
We asked the USCCR how federal employees can protect themselves from potential retaliation from their agencies, and still be able to contribute to the Commission’s inquiry on sexual harassment in government offices. We understand that some State Department employees may also be tied up with NDAs that may prevent them from discussing some details (for instance sensitive or classified locations, etc). We were also interested in learning if the Commission is also looking into practices at other agencies, and if so, which agencies are also being looked at (besides NASA and the State Department).
Below is the response we received from USCCR: