Two Days, Two Diplomatic Incidents: U.S. Embassy Brussels, U.S. Embassy Seoul

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Tillerson Delivers Performance Management Tip, and EER Drafters Everywhere Cheer

Posted: 12:55 am ET

 

According to ABC News, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently told U.S. diplomats in Brussels that the U.S. State Department has yet to achieve foreign policy “wins” since he took over nearly a year ago. “While we don’t have any wins on the board yet, I can tell you we’re in a much better position to advance America’s interests around the world than we were 10 months ago,” Tillerson said.

And EER writers everywhere cheered!

No more wasted paper or wasted printer toner come Spring when employee evaluation reports are due. This may be the shortest EER accomplishment employees ever have to write if they take their cue from a secretary of state whose tenure the New Yorker says “may well be regarded as the most consequential in postwar American history.”

DS-5055 has a box for description of accomplishments: “Rated employees must describe their most significant accomplishments during the rating period. Employees should provide a factual description of outcomes achieved and how these outcomes advanced Mission or Department goals. Employees do not self-appraise their own performance.”  Well, never mind that, it can be short and sweet like:

“As the Secretary has said, not having any accomplishments over 10 months is perfectly acceptable. My work has put the Department in a much better position to advance America’s work around the world.”

You’re welcome!

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#MemorialDay2016: “If you forget my death, then I died in vain.”

Posted:7:18 pm ET
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J. Kael Weston, the author of “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan,” was a State Department official in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2010.  Newsweek writes that he spent more time in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other State Department officer, including two and a half years in the Iraqi hellhole of Fallujah. He wrote The Graves of the Marines I Lost for the New York Times. Excerpt below:

While in Iraq and Afghanistan, I witnessed military officers and enlisted soldiers, at all ranks, being held accountable for their decisions. I have yet to see that happen with Washington policy makers who, far removed from the battlefields, benefit from our collective amnesia about past military and foreign policy failures.

The commander in chief and the senior military brass should leave the manicured grounds of Arlington and visit some of those places where most of America’s war dead are buried: farm towns, immigrant neighborhoods and working-class suburbs. At a time when fewer and fewer of us have any real ties to the military, how better to remind the nation that our troops are not just faceless volunteers, but people who live next door?

Over the last four years, I have visited a dozen such cemeteries. One was in Newcastle, Wyo. (population 3,532, according to the last census), where Staff Sgt. Brian Bland was laid to rest on a hill overlooking an oil refinery and a Pizza Hut. His granite headstone is shaped like a mountain peak.

Outside Cherokee, Iowa (population 5,253), at the Galva Veterans Memorial, I stood at Cpl. Nathan Schubert’s grave, next to his father’s, surrounded by green cornfields and grain silos. Etched on his headstone are pine trees and pheasants in flight.

In Menard, Tex. (population 1,471), I located Capt. Paul Christopher Alaniz, buried alongside his mother. Colorful ceramic tiles adorned his grave’s concrete plot, hand painted by his wife and children with the words “Love” and “Papa, Happy Father’s Day” and “A classy tie for a classy guy.”

I visited each one because I was directly involved in the decision that led to their deaths.

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How many @StateDept people remain unaccounted for after the #BrusselsAttacks? (Update #5)

Posted: 3:23 am EDT
Update #1: 7:02 pm EDT
Update #2: March 25, 12:27 am EDT
Update #3: 12:25 pm EDT
Update #4: 3:51 pm EDT
Update #5: 5:57 pm EDT
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Updated: 7:02 pm EDT: We understand that there are two individuals with the State Department who are unaccounted for in Brussels at this time. We will update when we learn more.

Updated: March 25, 12:27 am EDT: One of the two State Department individuals still missing in Brussels is a family member and part of mission under Chief of Mission authority. The second one is reportedly USG but is not part of the tri-mission (we don’t know at this time if employee or family member). 

Update #3: 12:25 am EDT: One is a family member and reportedly part of the USNATO mission; the second one who is USG but is not part of the tri-mission is also a family member.  

Update #4: 3:51 pm EDT:  The two unaccounted for are now the first two confirmed USG fatalities in Brussels. According to the AP  the State Department has confirmed that the families of two Americans had been informed of their deaths in the attacks Tuesday. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said the names were being withheld out of privacy considerations. 

Update #5: 5:57 pm EDT: According to ABCNews, the two Americans killed in Brussels this week have been confirmed as the spouses of U.S. personnel. “A U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that the two Americans were living in Europe at the time of the attacks. Their names have not been released and the families have asked for privacy.”

Via state.gov | Mark C. Toner, Deputy Spokesperson, Daily Press Briefing, March 23, 2016:

“So in terms of State Department or U.S. Government personnel, that is still also ongoing. We still have not accounted for every official U.S. Government employee or their members – or family members on the ground in Belgium – or in Brussels, rather. Partly, that reflects the size of the mission or three missions. There’s a bilateral mission, there’s a mission to the EU, as well as a mission to NATO. And as I said, partly reflects the fact that there’s a number of injured in the hospital – in hospitals around the city, and we’re still trying to gain access and trying to determine the identity of those and the nationality, obviously, of those individuals.”

The Brussels Tri-Mission includes U.S. Embassy Brussels, the U.S. Mission to the European Union (USEU), and the U.S. Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (USNATO). Each mission has its own ambassador and DCM. Posts often have an administrative “warden” system for the official U.S. citizen community.  Shortly after the attacks, the mission’s or tri-mission’s phone tree/notifications would have been activated. But we should also note that the Tri-Mission has one of the heaviest visitor workloads in the world due to the num­ber of U.S. agencies that conduct business in Brussels.

 

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@StateDept’s Comment on American Casualties During #BrusselsAttacks

Posted: 4:29 pm EDT
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Meanwhile in Belgium, the U.S. Embassy in Brussels issued a message that says the security situation remains at level 4. It urge individuals to exercise caution and to avoid large gatherings. “A period of mourning is underway and will end on Thursday. Many public events have been cancelled. Public transportation has been disrupted. Zaventem airport remains closed.”

 

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U.S. Embassy Belgium Requests USG Personnel Defer Travel to Brussels Until 3/29, DOD Travel Restrictions On

Posted: 6:00 pm EDT
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On March 22, U.S. Embassy Brussels sent a security message to U.S. citizens in Belgium informing them that an anti-terrorism police activity is ongoing in the neighborhood of Schaerbeek. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid this and any other police action that may occur. In light of today’s attacks Belgium authorities have

  • Raised the threat level to FOUR, the highest in the Belgian scale
  • Evacuated the airport, at this time it remains closed for outgoing flights and all flights to Brussels were diverted.
  • All public transport in Brussels has been halted and tunnels have been closed.

A subsequent embassy message requests USG personnel to defer non-essential travel to the capital city until Tuesday, March 29, 2016:

The U.S. Embassy in Brussels informs U.S. citizens that anti-terrorism police activity is ongoing. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid this and any other police action that may occur. Mission Brussels requests that U.S. government personnel defer non-essential travel to Brussels until Tuesday, March 29, 2016:

In light of today’s attacks Belgium authorities have

  • Raised the threat level to FOUR, the highest in the Belgian scale
  • Evacuated the airport, at this time it remains closed for outgoing flights and all flights to Brussels were diverted.
  • Public transport in Brussels is limited and several roads and tunnels remain closed.

These events take place with little or no notice, therefore U.S. citizens are urged to:

  • Be aware of local events
  • Follow local authority instructions
  • Monitor local media further developments 
  • U.S. citizens should contact their family and friends to let them know they are safe.
  • Take the appropriate steps to bolster your personal security

Meanwhile, the DOD and the European Command have implemented a travel restrictions to Belgium on March 22, 2016. They apply to all uniformed service members, civilian and contractor employees, and command-sponsored dependents.

 

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#BrusselsLockdown Response: Keep Calm and Tweet a Cat; Also No Consular Services on 11/23

Posted: 3:32 pm PDT
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During an ongoing police operations in Belgium on Sunday, Brussels Police requested the public to observe radio silence on social media.  Crisis Center Belgium also asked the people to remain calm and to strictly follow all the instructions of the security forces.

 

 

The Belgians and Twitter responded by tweeting cat photos.  We recently lost our cat companion of 18 years, so don’t blame us too much if we get enamored with these cats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also on November 22, the U.S. Embassy in Brussels announced the closure of the Consular Section on Monday, November 23 as well as the continued elevated threat in the capital city and the rest of Belgium:

The U.S. Embassy in Brussels informs U.S. citizens that the current threat level remains at Level 4 (serious threat of imminent attack) for Brussels, and Level 3 (high) for the rest of the country.

All public schools in Brussels will be closed on Monday, November 23. The International School of Brussels, Brussels American School, and St. John’s International School will also be closed. For other schools please consult their administrations.

All Metro stations will be closed on Monday. Other public transportation options, like trams, are operating on a limited basis. Regional trains and airports are operating but authorities urge vigilance.

The Belgian government continues to caution citizens to avoid public places such as major pedestrian walkways and shopping centers. The Belgian government will again reassess the threat level on Monday. We will provide further information as available.

The U.S. Embassy Consular Section will be offering emergency services only. All scheduled appointments are cancelled. Information on rescheduling these appointments will be available on our website.

In this time of elevated threat, the U.S. Embassy in Brussels reminds U.S. citizens to exercise caution in public transportation systems, sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, shopping malls, and other tourist destinations. U.S. citizens are encouraged to monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.

Read in full here.

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Around the Foreign Service — Remembrances and Commemorations, Memorial Day 2015

Posted: 5:28 pm  PDT
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US Embassy Belgium

U.S. Memorial Day commemorations in Belgium | Each year, the U.S. Embassy to the Kingdom of Belgium observes Memorial Day by participating in commemoration ceremonies to honor the more than 14,000 American soldiers buried in Belgium in World War One and World War Two cemeteries.

Photo by US Embassy Brussels/FB

Photo by US Embassy Brussels/FB

US Embassy Romania

US Embassy Bucharest, Romania |  ChargĂ© d’Affaires a.i. Dean Thompson at the occasion of Memorial Day Ceremony. Bucharest, May 22, 2015 (Lucian Crusoveanu / Public Diplomacy Office)

Photo by US Embassy Romania/Flickr

Photo by US Embassy Romania/Flickr

US Mission NATO

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US Embassy United Kingdom

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US Consulate Halifax, Canada

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US Embassy New Zealand

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US Embassy Netherlands

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