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RQ: Unaccompanied Posts

with 2 comments

A reader asks,

What are the chances that I’m forced to serve in an unaccompanied post during my career?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing so?

Unaccompanied posts are posts in which there are certain restrictions on which family members, if any, are allowed to travel with the employee.  Some posts (like Afghanistan and Iraq) do not allow spouses to accompany the employee unless they arrange for employment at the Embassy prior to deployment.  Other unaccompanied posts allow the spouse, but no children.Career-wise, unaccompanied posts offer a challenging assignment in parts of the world that are usually towards the top of the country’s foreign policy priorities.  Obviously Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are up there, but so are trouble spots like Yemen, Sudan, and Libya (these are not the only unaccompanied posts, these are just examples).  You’ll probably meet some very high-profile people, and getting a good EER from a difficult post looks great when you get to the promotion boards.  You can also usually get the assignment of your choice (within your cone’s or specialty’s bidding options) for your next tour.  If you’re a single ELO with no kids and no special circumstances, going to an unaccompanied post is the only way you’re going to get to a nice European country without an extreme dose of good luck before you hit FS-3.

On the non-professional side, unaccompanied tours are usually a year long and are generous with Rest and Relaxation breaks.  Family members can usually remain at your previous post on the government’s dime if they cannot accompany you to your onward assignment (or, they can go back to the States if they wish).

Your chances of serving at an unaccompanied post are difficult to predict.  When you joined the Foreign Service, you agreed that the needs of the Service were paramount and agreed to serve wherever the Department decided they need you.  With the recently announced withdrawal from Iraq, I am curious as to how State’s responsibilities there will increase the demand for more FSOs to fill the gaps previously staffed by the military.  It’s also impossible to say which posts will be designated unaccompanied in the future, and which will allow family members after shedding the “unaccompanied” label.  While the common perception seems to be that one will go to an unaccompanied post at some time in their careers, plenty of FSOs never serve in one and have gotten promoted all the same.  It’s not a career-breaker to never go to an unaccompanied post.

Like any post, serving at an unaccompanied one should be viewed as an honor, not an obligation.

Be sure to check out past Reader Questions in the Archives.


2 Responses

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  1. In my opinion, another advantage in serving at an unaccompanied post is the positive post community. People tend to be more involved in getting together to keep morale up, instead of everyone disappearing to their home lives and not being seen again till the next business day.


    27/10/2011 at 08:10

    • Generally true. However, I’ve also found that the one-year posts everyone immediately starts talking about how many days they have left a week after they get there. Understandable to some extent, but it’s a bit of a downer and gets old fast.


      27/10/2011 at 15:14

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