Matamoros, Mexico: Washington, D.C.:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Props to Ops

I know I've been a little absent from the blog recently - sorry! Sometimes it's nice to take a little break every now and then to focus on other things. I've got some fun trips planned for the upcoming weeks, but until then I just wanted to share this with you, in case you haven't seen it.

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the State Department Operations Center. The first time I heard about the Ops Center was from a great (and humorous) WaPo article about it. I operate best under pressure and when time is limited, so I was fascinated by how the Ops center works 24/7, tirelessly, to keep the State Department moving.

While I was in D.C. for A-100 and subsequent training, I had the incredible opportunity to sit in for an entire eight hour shift at Ops. It happened to be a rather quiet evening, though there were certainly a few exciting moments (my third Secretary sighting, as I passed her in the hallway outside her office while helping deliver briefing notes; a visit to the Secretary's home at 10:30pm to deliver more briefing papers; watching as Ops collected information on an incident involving the French embassy in Mali.) I was fascinated by how Ops works, and I knew then that I very much want to be a part of S-ES/O at some point in my future. (For you non-Staters out there, that jumble of letters represents the Ops center's location in the hierarchical chain of the Department: Secretary-Executive Secretary/Ops.) I've heard that Ops tends to look more favorably on 3rd tour officers, though they will sometimes accept 2nd tour officers who are really outstanding. The caliber of the Ops center officers I have met has been very high - I hope I qualify when I make my go at it in the future.

Until then, I'll leave you with the following excerpt from the Secretary's remarks at the recent State Ops anniversary celebration and opening of an exhibit about what they do at the Department. I encourage you to check out the full remarks and/or the video, as well. The Secretary gave a great speech about the value of the Ops center staff. For those of you who have worked there or will be working there soon - thanks for what you do. It's truly an incredible job.

Now, thanks to the Ops Center, we can stay connected, and it certainly is a lot easier today than it was in 1961. And many of us have stories. I just want to mention one or two that really have impressed on me what we are dealing with when we give an assignment to the Ops Center. 
Now, one evening, I wanted to speak with an ambassador who was visiting Washington, so of course, I asked Ops to find him for me. And a few minutes later, the phone rang, and it was the ambassador on the line, and Ops patched me through. It was to me just sort of matter of fact, simple exchange. Only later I learned that the ambassador did not have his cell phone with him. So Ops called a member of his staff, who said that the ambassador was out to dinner, but he didn’t know where. Ops called the ambassador’s hotel and learned that the concierge had recommended three restaurants – (laughter) – but they didn’t know which one he chose. So Ops called them all, sent a picture of the ambassador, asked them to scan their dining rooms until he was found. And all of this happened in a matter of minutes, and I didn’t know anymore than the fact that I’d asked for and received the connection that I was looking for. That is perseverance. (Laughter.)

Until next time...peace.

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