What is the Foreign Service and do you wear those funny hats?

No, you’re thinking of the Foreign Legion, famous from all those old movies of them in the desert.  They wore hats like this:

French Foreign Legion hat

We don’t.

The Foreign Service is the branch of the Department of State which provides diplomats to all our consulates and embassies overseas. It’s a small group, the total number of people in the Foreign Service is fewer than the number in military bands!

We serve all over the world, including in Iraq and Afghanistan where many Foreign Service officers serve and live right beside their military counterparts, facing the same dangers. We’re lots of dangerous places our military isn’t as well. Even where the danger of being shot by an AK-47 isn’t there, most posts in developing countries lack things like consistant electricy, paved roads, safe water and food. Families often serve alongside, children attending local schools and becoming part of the local community

Many embassies are small. Some have as few as two or three FSOs. Fully staffed (we’re between ambassadors right now, among others), Cotonou has 14.

In many countries, the embassy staff works closely with USAID, the Peace Corps, and MCC. This adds to the size of our American communities for things like Halloween and Thanksgiving.

So in short, that’s who we are. We’ll only wear funny hats if we feel like it, and only off hours. We don’t all attend fancy dress balls or pass out cookies to foreign ambassadors at parties.

We’re serving our country, mostly overseas, because each one of us knew our answer when asked what we “could do for our country”.

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