Dreams of A Diplomat: The Call-Up

by Juan Thomas
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“All of my dreams will be fulfilled at the proper time” – Lailah Gifty Akita

As I wrote in yesterday’s Flashback Friday Moment of the Week, I have received an official offer of appointment into the United States Foreign Service. To be completely honest, I can’t tell you how overwhelmingly excited I am. Oh my, where do I begin?!?

I guess I will begin with the results from the suitability review panel. As I wrote back in May, the suitability review was all that was left for me in the process after having got my worldwide medical clearance and my Top Secret security clearance. Last month, I received an email from the Registrar which explained that my suitability review was complete. There was no mention of anything that would adversely impact me nor was there any mention of changes regarding my status on the Register so I felt really good about the likelihood that I would get an appointment. This was re-emphasized by diplomats and hopefuls I exchanged messages within the Foreign Service forum on Reddit. The question has really always been when. It appears, for me at least, that when was hinged on me completing the clearances process in full. Just 6 months after I landed myself on the Foreign Service Register and just under 3 months after I secured my security clearance, I have a confirmed offer of employment and an official offer of appointment into the Foreign Service.

I received the letter this past Wednesday and I have until this upcoming Wednesday to respond. Of course, it should go without saying that I’m going to take the job and accept the appointment. In fact, I sent the Registrar my response yesterday morning.

As I alluded to at the outset of this post, I was overwhelmingly excited. I’ve worked so hard to get to this point. I’ve made so many sacrifices to get to this point. From the pursuit of the Facility Management master’s degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology to the investment in training and credentials from IFMA to moving back to the DC area for my present job at the Department of the Interior, I’ve done it all for this moment…to be appointed into the Foreign Service as a Facility Manager. This is the realization of a dream that started at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers on April 11, 2012. The featured image only shows the part about me being extended the offer of appointment, which is the most important part in this. It doesn’t show all of the salary ramifications in taking this position with the Foreign Service, which may prove to be a boon for me financially. Truth be told, if I didn’t have Mercedes and Ashton to worry about, I would have no problems doing this for free. That’s how much I love this work and how full I feel in getting this opportunity.

At the end of the day, just as was the case with me winning Airman of the Year, only my name will be on the prize—in this case, the appointment—but I certainly didn’t get here alone. Of course, God has the biggest part in this but there are a lot of people who had a hand in me getting here…directly and indirectly. I’ll spend some words giving them their kudos…

THE AIR FORCE PEOPLE. This dream started in the Spring of 2012, when I was still on the Air Force clock. The first person I want to thank is Diane Yorio. She is the Chief of the 11th Civil Engineer Squadron Customer Service Office and it was her that gave me the freedom to take the Joint Base Andrews Facility Manager’s Program to new heights. She always had my back when it came to enforcing the law of the land and without her, I’m not here. The same could be said of my colleagues in the 11th Civil Engineer Squadron Customer Service Office from 2010-2012. The collective of Claborne Staten and Na’im Vaughan—both senior non-commissioned officers I served under at Andrews—were fantastic. They provided so much cover for me when I had to make the tough calls. A huge shout out to Mike Hauter and the 2012-13 ISRG Facilities Team at Osan Air Base. I didn’t quite know what to expect from that special assignment in my Air Force swan song but I really took flight as a Facility Operations Manager under Mike’s tutelage and even though I was far younger and much less experienced than my colleagues, they didn’t treat me as an inferior. Carl McKinley deserves a lot of credit. He gave me a shot to turn around a left-behind FM program at Yokota and that really ignited my passion for this industry. Martin Ayala and Lairent Williams were 2 of my supervisors in the Air Force and they are still mentors to me even after the uniform. Big kudos to them. There was The Community Planner. It can be reasonably argued that had she not crushed my heart, I probably don’t have the desire to move above the Facility Manager’s Program at Andrews nor do I volunteer for the Osan assignment, which has had an incredible domino effect on my life. Nichole Monzon deserves some praise. She was the Community Readiness Specialist at the Osan Airman & Family Readiness Center when I went through the week in the military Transition Assistance Program. She literally helped me create a white-hot Federal résumé. Of course, I can’t forget about Chief Jacob Dunbar. I owe him so much for what he did for me during my time in service and even now, as a civilian.

THE USACE PEOPLE. A major shout-out to Rhonda Bath from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District. She gave me my first shot as a Federal civil servant. Also, the U.S. Army 81st Regional Support Command Department of Public Works gets some love because it was their Army Reserve buildings that allowed me to dip my toes into doing this work full-time outside of the uniform. My teammates in Region E—Frank Rose and Woodie Newmans—brought me along and I’m a better assessor of facility issues because of them. My late teammate, Douglas Bufford, deserves a lot of credit. Nobody pushed me more to think outside of the box as a Facility Manager. This work I’ll do going forward will definitely be with him in mind. I definitely have to thank Sharon Thompson-Taylor, the administrator at my main office in Opelika. She gave me my first actual standalone office and provided me with a space to do what I needed to do…even as a geographically separated USACE employee.

THE DOI PEOPLE. Any thanks from the Interior side starts with James Grisham. Outside of Diane and Chief Dunbar, nobody has done more for my career than him. He was responsible for bringing me back to the nation’s capital and, as I told him yesterday, if it wasn’t for this job, he’d have me as part of his Branch of Building Operations team for the next 20-25 years. Speaking of the BBO, my teammates—Kenny Glover, James Williams, and Evelyn Bonilla—deserve a lot of credit. They’ve been doing this work for as long as I’ve been alive and they’ve provided so much guidance that I’ll carry with me forever. Of course, the retired Rick Farr and Ken Tunney deserve thanks as well. My colleagues in the Office of Facilities & Administrative Services deserve some thanks…especially Denise Bailey, Dante Jeffries, Sandra Tomsan, and the Space Management Branch. I wouldn’t be as informed about sustainability and environmental matters if it wasn’t for Mary Heying so she gets some love. As does the DOI Acquisitions Office for giving me my first crack at being a Contracting Officer’s Representative. Chimes DC and Ameresco, Inc. get some appreciation for making my day-to-day a lot easier. The vendors I worked with on my contracts have been godsends for my development as a Facility Manager: Brian Pierce from American Pest (I know a LOT about pests that inconvenience building occupants because of him), RJ’s Disposal Service (they’ve helped me understand refuse and recycling), Concentric Security (the best bollard maintenance company out there) and Kevin Lisenby from Beltway Cleaning Systems (I know a lot about the small details of cafeteria equipment because of him).

PROFESSIONAL CONTACTS. I definitely have to thank Dale Downer. He was the recruiter that I met at IFMA Facility Fusion in 2012. Without him, I probably don’t even know about the Foreign Service Facility Manager position. I have to thank Lauren Krueger from IFMA. When I joined IFMA in 2012, I just wanted to be a simple sponge…taking in all of the information for my own benefit. She had different thoughts and moved me to become more involved in my professional association, which has been a tremendous boon for me.

THE JOBS THAT DIDN’T WANT TO INVEST IN ME. I should dole out some love to the 779th Medical Group Facility Management Team at Joint Base Andrews. I applied for one of their Facility Manager positions in 2013 and even though they knew I knew the facilities game on that yard (they attended my briefings every year, they saw my handbook), they still rejected me…something about me being “a rules guy who may be inflexible to Command decisions”. The National Parks Service Facility Management Office in Washington should also get some love. After I scored a 105 on one of their vacancies in 2014 and got referred to the selecting official, they canceled the announcement and readvertised it with markers that made me ineligible. Without either of the decisions made by those offices, I don’t carry this incredible chip on my shoulder to be the best professional version of myself just so I can one day sit on the throne and tell the world how they missed.

Last but certainly not least are those that are closest to me. All of my co-best friends who have seen me on this journey, who have lent an ear to my frustrations over the years…Alonzo Jacque, Adrian Mask, Jeremie Mason, Latisha Hambrick, Shermika Anglin, Deondrea Jones, and Jade Trevino deserve some credit for keeping me in the fight. My spiritual mother deserves some credit because I know she’s been praying for me. Of course, my mother and father along with my sisters deserve some love. They’ve encouraged me to follow my dreams…even as wild and as far away from Birmingham as they are. Somewhere in the pearly gates of heaven, my great-grandmother is looking down on me probably smiling. The little guy who used to follow her across the street to Snoozy’s and watch Peter Jennings with her every evening gets to take on the world. Certainly not to be left out are my wife and son. Make no mistake, this is my dream but I couldn’t have chased it the way I have without knowing that they were OK with it. I know my wife hasn’t been fond of this lifestyle in the National Capital Region and I know my son has had his challenges being here as well. All I asked was they be patient and wait with me to get to this point and now that we’re here, it’s my mission to show them a world beyond their wildest dreams.

To close, I got the job. I broke through all of the glass ceilings I’ve encountered over the last 8 years. I feel like I’ve ascended into the mountain region of my professional career. In some respects, I feel like the youngsters at the NBA Draft or NFL Draft when they make it to their “dream job”. I’ve battled so long to get here and now I’m going to enjoy every moment of it and go about doing the best work I’ve ever done.

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1 comment

bonbon July 14, 2021 - 8:58 pm

Wow… that’s a lot of sacrifices and truly, your hard work paid off. Congratulations and I hope you get to get to reach your next dream:) But for now… ENJOY!!! Cheers!!!

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