The OpSec Blog

Security and privacy information and advice at home and abroad.

RQ: What Was Your Best Day in the Foreign Service?

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A reader sent me a question that made me think for what turned out to be a significant amount of time.  They asked,

What was your best day as an SEO?

After careful thought, the following is a location and PII-neutral and “operationally secure” version of what I believe was my best day as an SEO.

In accordance with 12 FAM 532.2-2 (5), combinations on DS-approved locks used to secure classified national security information must be changed every year.  Since at the time I was a junior SEO at a larger post, I got stuck with the tasking.  As with many things in government work, the process is not as efficient as some would think it could be.  If you’ve ever changed the combination on a mechanical spin-dial lock, electromechanical lock, or higher-end padlock, you know that doing more than a few of them in a day is not generally how one wants to spend their time.

In any case, I started making the rounds through the various offices.  I had gotten through about a dozen locks when a helpful Seabee asked if I would like him to deliver the completed documentation forms to the RSO shop where they are kept for safekeeping to show that you did the work.  Forms?  Oh right… the forms I completely forgot about.  I had to go back to the previous locks I had just re-combo’d and do it again.

The third lock I had to re-do was in an office in sort of an isolated part of the embassy (it’s not quite like “the annex” in The Office, but kind of…).  When I walked in I could immediately tell that something was not right; some papers had spilled onto the floor and the door was open.  When I entered the office I saw one of the employees that worked in that office space sprawled on the floor after an apparent collapse.

Remembering my basic first aid (which I probably still flubbed), I checked for a pulse and for breathing, both of which were present.  I used the employee’s desk phone to call the post medical officer, who made it down there along with some additional help within minutes after giving me some basic instructions.  I later learned that the employee was a diabetic, had been working long shifts to complete some project, and the stress got to them.  Since it was the beginning of the lunch hour, the employee could have been alone unconscious on the floor for the better part of an hour if I hadn’t found him.  The employee and I remain good friends and in contact to this day.

This is clearly a highly atypical experience, but regardless it is the day in my mind that sticks out.  I do not like to think about what might have happened if I hadn’t stumbled into the scene.  If anything, this is an example of how it’s OK to be a little less than perfect every single second of every single day like some bosses will demand of you.

Nobody dies.  Protect the classified.  And that’s my best day as an SEO.

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