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10/28/2009
Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq speaks to FAOs

By Natela Cutter, Strategic Communications

The former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, addressed Foreign Area Officers at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Oct. 28, telling them that the language they are studying is "the key that opens the door into a world in which you are about to dwell."

"You are a huge force multiplier. Seek every opportunity you have that increases your value, to yourself and to your country," said Crocker, speaking about the FAO program that provides for DLIFLC language training prior to a year-long assignment to the country where FAOs specialize in that region of the world. "The need for FAOs is only going to increase in this non-polar world."

Crocker, who was the chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from March 2007 to February 2009, spoke about his experiences in, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to about 120 young officers, embarking on their career to become military attaches at U.S. Embassies around the world.
"You are becoming national assets whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan.... I am here to tell you that, you as a very small component (of the military), are taking on some major responsibilities and I thank you for your service," said Crocker.

The former ambassador explained how valuable it was to have FAOs who spoke the language and understood the culture of the nations where they will be working, adding that "We are geographically challenged, impatient, while our adversaries are very patient." Crocker gave an example of the various periods that the Taliban ruled areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, stating that they were waiting for the U.S. to get tired of the fight and leave.

"We have never had a greater need than we do now for uniformed, military officers, who have a thorough grounding in the realities of foreign areas.  If it were possible to have  FAOs on at least on every battalion staff, or deployed battalion,  that would be an unbelievable force multiplier," he said, offering that battalion commanders could benefit from their advise "on a day-to-day basis," to become more effective.

"As a career diplomat, a civilian FAO, I uniquely appreciate the special skills that only come from a military officer who is grounded in these complex areas. My only complaint about the FAO program is that it is not big enough and that it needs to expand," said Crocker. 

Photo by Natela Cutter, Strategic Communications

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