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Foreign Area Officers: How We're Trained and What We Do

January 11, 2011 | Major Matthew Brown

      Most Company Grade Officers know of the Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Functional Area – FA 48 – and many know something about the training required to become a FAO. However, it seems that almost none of the prospective candidates know a thing about what FAOs actually do for the Army prior to applying for FA 48. In fact, most officers selected for FAO training continue to struggle with this question even into their 2nd year of the program. My contribution to this professional blog will be to answer this question (using my own experience) by explaining the FAO Training Program and describing the types of jobs that are available for FAOs. My target audience is Company Grade Officers who have not yet selected their Career Field Designation (CFD), and my goal is to generate a discussion that can help young officers make better informed decisions. I must admit up front that I do not work for HRC (and I never have), so I am not an authority. My knowledge on this topic is from having completed the Training Program in Dec 2010. The date of this blog is 11 Jan 2011. Please keep in mind that policy evolves over time, and therefore this information has a shelf life.
     Chapter 28 of DA Pam 600-3 (1 Feb 2010) is the primary reference for everything FA 48: qualification, selection, training, assignments, characteristics, values, etc… The pamphlet is carefully organized and quite detailed, but it can also be quite vague and sterile. Having just finished the 3-year Training Program, it all makes sense to me. However, it doesn’t provide the candid dialogue that speaks to the candidate who is trying to make sense of this AR 25-50 writing style. Allow me to interpret the key points into plain text.

I. Selection. Around the 8th year of commissioned service, each officer will select a CFD, and it is then that one can submit an application for consideration to become a FAO. There are eight minimum criteria that a candidate must meet to even be considered for selection (see DA Pam 600-3, p.261 for the full list), but be mindful that FAO accession is in high demand. Meeting the minimum qualifications often results in the dreaded FQ-NS (Fully Qualified – Not Selected). Candidates must submit a standardized application form to FAO HRC during the CFD process, and it is at this time that the candidate must sell himself. My recommendation is to start preparing for the CFD board early: if you already speak a language, you should submit current DLPT scores; take the Defense Language Aptitude Battery (DLAB) early enough that you can take it again if needed (you can only take it every six months); prepare your written statements early and get some feedback from senior officers. As the purpose of this blog is to discuss training and assignments, I will stop here on the selection process. However, please feel free to ask questions about it.

II. Training. The FAO Training Program is divided into five steps: (1) Language Training, (2) In-Country Training, (3) Advanced Civil School (aka: Grad School), (4) the FAO Orientation Course, and (5) Intermediate Level Education (ILE). There is no standard path through these training requirements; each individual navigates through them in his/her own way (the reason for this will become apparent in the discussion of the steps). What is common to everyone, however, is that a FAO Training Officer at HRC (Knox) tracks the trainees to develop a training plan, approve exceptions, ensure timelines are met, and generally to provide some top cover. I will cover each of these steps individually:
     1. Language Training. 95% of all trainees’ first step in the FAO Training Program is to PCS to the Presidio of Monterey, California to attend a Basic Course at the Defense Language Institute – Foreign Language Center (DLI-FLC). Course lengths differ depending on language: Spanish is 6 months, Russian is 12 months, and Arabic is 18 months. Officer and NCO trainees get assigned to E Company, 229th MI BN, which is a TRADOC unit and, therefore, necessitates a unique environment. Officer students are exempt from the bulk of non-language related TRADOC training requirements; however, there are some extra-curricular activities that even the we cannot get out of (ie.. BN runs, award presentations, mandatory quarterly training requirements, etc…) Many of these events distract from studying (and are somewhat annoying), but they are minimal and most are necessary due to DLI being a TRADOC institution.
     The curriculum at DLI is constantly changing to reflect the demands of the DoD, and Teaching Teams have great flexibility to adjust teaching methods, so each individual’s experience will vary greatly. [On this note, I attended the Russian Basic Course in 1992-1993 as a Private and then I attended it again in 2008 as a Major. Although it was the same course in name, the experiences were absolutely unique.] Graduation requirements for DLI are to attain a minimum GPA of 2.0 (calculated from academic coursework) and to achieve at least 2/2/1+ (Reading/Listening/Speaking) on the Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT). BN Policy, in 2008, for Officers who failed to achieve the minimum requirements was to receive an Academic Evaluation Report (AER) marked, “Failed to Achieve Course Standards” (the equivalent to a Below Center of Mass). There was quite a bit of pushback on this point because most DLPTs transitioned from version 4 to version 5 at some time in the late 2000s. Despite the fact that neither the minimum standard for passing (2/2/1+) nor the course length/material changed, the transition from version 4 to 5 has made attaining a 2 much more difficult. Several officers, particularly those studying Arabic in the late 2000s, failed to achieve the minimum DLPT scores (even officers going into the DLPT with “A” GPAs) and, indeed, received poor AERs. It remains to be seen how this will affect their promotion to LTC.
     Some officers assessed into FAO already speak a foreign language fluently, or at least well enough to pass the DLPT. In these cases, the officers do not get the opportunity to attend DLI. The FAO Training Officer makes this decision on a case-by-case basis. Another exception is for officers who chose to attend the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey after DLI. Instead of the standard pattern (DLI-ICT-ACS), officers who attend NPS follow the pattern of DLI-ACS(NPS)-ICT.
     2. In Country Training (ICT). In my experience, each trainee’s experience in ICT is absolutely unique. The purpose of ICT is to immerse the trainee (and family) into one of the cultures within that trainee’s Area of Concentration (AOC), and the varieties of different ways of accomplishing this are endless. Instead of attempting to illustrate (in vague terms) all of the different theories on ICT, I will simply provide my own experience as a case study. However, common to all 48 MOS’s, ICT lasts only one year.
I am a 48E (Eurasian FAO), and 48Es’ have a significantly different approach to ICT from other 48 MOS’s because the Cold War used to prohibit us from travelling into our AOC. During the Soviet era, the US Army sent 48Es to the George C. Marshall Center (GCMC) in Garmisch, Germany to study our adversary from afar. Although that reality has changed, tradition and bureaucratic inertia have kept GCMC in the business of training 48Es, and it served as my base of operations while I traveled into the former Soviet Union (Eurasia) for ICT. I maintained an on-post apartment (in stairwell-style German housing) in Garmisch where my family lived, and I used a GCMC work-station to arrange my trips, but otherwise I had very little to do with the GCMC community (I liked to think of GCMC as my logistics hub). The following are a list of my major training events while on ICT:
     -Jan-Feb 2010: I attended a Russian language refresher course at the Partnership Language Training Center – Europe (PLTCE) in Garmisch. This five-week course helped me prepare for the rigors of traveling in the East by concentrating on the spoken language (as opposed to DLI which focused on reading and listening).
     -Mar-Apr 2010: Language Immersion. I traveled to Kyiv, Ukraine and lived with a Ukrainian host family while attending an intense Russian language course at a civilian institute called Nova Mova. Upon first contemplating this course, I though four weeks (as compared to 48 weeks at DLI) would be insignificant. However, the benefits of immersion are very substantial (but difficult to measure). I feel that I have sustained a dramatic improvement in my Russian from this portion of my ICT.
     -Apr-Jun 2010: Military Representative Assignment #1 in Kyiv. After Nova Mova, I moved into an apartment near the US Embassy and went to work for a LTC (48E) in the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) (more about the job in the next section of this blog). While working in the ODC, I received first-hand exposure to the Ukrainian military and to the inner-workings of the US Embassy as well as additional exposure to Ukrainian culture and Russian language.
      -Jul 2010: Regional Travel (Baltic States). My family (wife and 6 year old daughter) traveled for two weeks with me to Tallinn, Estonia; Riga, Latvia; Vilnius, Lithuania; and Warsaw, Poland. In each city I visited the US Embassy for a brief on local conditions and US foreign policy objectives, and otherwise immersed into the local culture.
     -Aug-Sep 2010: Eurasian Security Studies Seminar (ESSS). This three week seminar took place at GCMC and consisted of a series of guest lecturers (predominantly GCMC professors) on a variety of security related topics concerning Eurasia. On the last week the seminar visited USAREUR (Heidelberg), USEUCOM (Stuttgart), the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA-Darmstadt) and NATO (Belgium).
     -Sep-Nov 2010: Military Representative Assignment #2 in Tbilisi, Georgia. I worked for the ODC in Tbilisi for another LTC (48E) while learning about the Georgian culture, history, and security problems.
     After each trip I was required to submit a Trip Report detailing the events of the trip and describing how I had fulfilled major learning objectives associated with the FAO ICT Program. Furthermore, I was required to submit a 20-page research paper on a topic of my choice (I chose to write about Ukrainian President Yanukovych), and present the findings of the paper to my peers at GCMC. Having compared ICT notes with other FAO trainees from different AOCs, I have discovered that although methods differ, the end result (immersion) is always the same.
     3. Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS). FAO Training maintains a list (a very long list) of suitable Graduate Schools that a trainee can attend and receive a Master’s Degree in an approved list of subjects. Although FAO Training will encourage trainees to take the shortest (meaning one year) and least expensive (meaning less than $13k/year) school possible, many trainees attend Harvard, Georgetown, Yale, and other Ivy League schools. Once approved by ACS and accepted by the school, the trainee will administratively PCS to the US Army Student Detachment (USASD) located in Fort Jackson, South Carolina (but will move to the location of the school) and ACS will pay all tuition costs. [I attended the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, California immediately after finishing DLI, and as this is a DoD institution I did not deal with ACS very much.] For the duration of the Master’s Degree, the trainee lives and works in a civilian environment, and there are virtually no requirements to ever appear anywhere in uniform.
     4. FAO Orientation Course (FAOOC). Each trainee will typically attend this one week course while at DLI. The event is an introduction seminar consisting of various guest speakers who work towards defining the duties and characteristics of the FAO branch by providing theoretical and practical examples of FAOs in the field. Topics span from how to buy and wear a suit (possibly the most important thing I learned at my FAOOC) to the major assignment billets FAOs fill.
     5. Intermediate Level Education (ILE). FAOs do not attend the full CGSC course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Instead, we attend ILE (the Common Core Courses) at satellite campuses in various locations around CONUS (Fort Gordon, Fort Lee, Fort Belvoir, and Redstone Arsenal). Secretary Gates recently ordered that no Army officer would be promoted to O-5 without having first completed ILE (or CGSC depending on MOS). Therefore, on the topic of promotion, the importance of attending ILE has elevated from “important” to “vital.” This is part of the Army’s standard Professional Military Education (PME).

III. FAO Assignment Types. There are, broadly speaking, five categories of jobs filled by FAOs, and while DA Pam 600-3 lists the job titles, it provides neither job descriptions nor explanations of the various organizations where these jobs are found. Of note, there is no specified career progression pattern for FAOs, nor is there any particular job that is considered “key developmental.” While there is gossip that some jobs favor promotion more than others, senior leaders are always careful to point out that promotion hinges not on the job, but on the manner in which the job is performed.
     1. Overseas US Country Team. The FAO jobs in our overseas embassies fall into two categories: Defense Attaché Office (DAO) and Security Assistance/Security Cooperation (SA/SC). No two country teams are alike; mission requirements dictate manning strength.
     Defense Attaché Office (DAO): The senior position in the DAO is the Defense Attaché (DATT), who is typically an O-5 or O-6, and depending on the size and importance of the embassy the DATT has a staff. The senior Army officer working for the DATT is called Army Attaché (ARMA), and his helpers are called Assistant Army Attachés (A/ARMAs). The other branches have different terms for their officers (for example, the Marine Attaché is the MARA), but regardless of branch, these assistants all perform the same function on the staff of the DATT – One Team! The DATT has two primary functions: (1) serve as the representative of the US Secretary of Defense in that country, and (2) serve as the military advisor to the ambassador. These tasks are essential because many State Department workers have little or no knowledge of military affairs. Additional functions of this office include Distinguished Visitor (DV) escort, coordination/approval authority for US Military aircraft and personnel entering the country, and various other reporting requirements. DATTs, although physically located inside the border of some COCOM Commander’s territory, report to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and have no reporting responsibility to the COCOM.
     Security Assistance/Security Cooperation (SA/SC): COCOMs extend influence into most countries by maintaining an office that does report to them. The names of these offices vary from COCOM to COCOM, but they each have the same essential function (for example, EUCOM calls them Offices of Defense Cooperation (ODC), but CENTCOM calls them Offices of Military Cooperation (OMC), etc…). For the purposes of this paragraph, I’m going to use ODC. The senior position is the ODC Chief, typically an O-5 or O-6, and again depending on the size and importance of the embassy the ODC Chief has a staff, and the office is usually physically located near the host nation Ministry of Defense (MoD) and not in the embassy. In countries with ODC presence, COCOMs strike an agreement with the host nation (a contract bound by military integrity and good-faith) in a document called a Country Campaign Plan (CCP), which is nested in greater US foreign policy and spells out COCOM objectives for that state. For example, in many of the states of the former Soviet Union, EUCOM is trying to help develop the institution of the NCO Corps (which never existed in Soviet military culture). In this example, an NCO Corps helps the host nation military conform to NATO interoperability standards (doctrinally), and this benefits both the host nation (by serving as a pre-requisite to receiving the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) and developing the military along western principles) and it benefits EUCOM by building partnership capacity (which can be harnessed for use in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example). The ODC’s responsibilities, in fulfillment of the CCP, are to handle Foreign Military Sales (FMS) (ie.. selling weapon systems and other military hardware to the host nation); sending host nation soldiers to US military schools on a program called International Military Education and Training (IMET); coordinate for US Mobile Training Teams (MTTs) to train the host nation on some specific task; and a host of other programs all connected with the theme of security cooperation and security assistance.
     Recent DoD policy has created a new position on the Country Team called the Senior Defense Official (SDO). Instead of providing an additional officer, however, this policy simply names one of the two key military officers (either the DATT or ODC Chief) as the SDO and, therefore, the senior military officer in country. It seems that this responsibility falls most frequently to the DATT, and although to most military minds the concept of “unity of command” seems quite reasonable, this new policy has been met with a degree of criticism. As I noted previously, the DATT reports to DIA and the ODC reports to the COCOM; therefore these two officers, although living and working in the same foreign capital, have completely divergent chains-of-command, authorities, and responsibilities. 
     2. Army Operational. FAO operational billets exist in the staff elements of the Army Service Component Command (ASCC) J5s (for example: US Army Europe (USAREUR) in Heidelberg), Corps Headquarters, and Army Staff. Officers in these jobs often server as “desk officers” for a particular (or sometimes multiple) states, and in this capacity they are the primary link between the ODC and the Command. Being closer to the apex of decision making, they are the commander’s subject-matter-expert (SME) on a country, the ODC’s voice to the command on matters concerning the Country Campaign Plan (CCP) (remember, the CCP is between the COCOM and the Host Nation), they help shape command policy based on events occurring in country, and they help the ODC resolve logistic issues. Far from being a wasted billet, these staff positions are critical because although the COCOM has tasking authority and funding, it’s the Army Operational Commands that own people!!
     3. Political-Military. These billets exist in the “Joint” world – Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), Joint Staff, National Security Council, Department of State (DoS), Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and combatant commands (COCOMs). FAOs working in these jobs essentially perform the same jobs as for the Army Operational category, with the exception of the fact that they (1) are “joint” (meaning that the command serves the DoD at large and all services are represented) and (2) are concerned more with policy and strategy than with troops and tactics. DTRA is specific to the 48E (Eurasia) community because it specifically deals with treaty verification (which currently only exists in the context of US-Russia relations). Officers working for DTRA frequently travel into the states of the former Soviet Union to verify that states are conforming to the tenets of a particular treaty. For example, when the Russian Duma ratifies the new Strategic Arms Treaty (which should occur very soon (this article being written on 11 Jan 2011) and which, I believe, will be called START III) FAOs working for DTRA (who serve as Team Leaders) will receive the mission to travel to sites inside Russia where strategic nuclear weapons are deployed to (literally) count warheads. Team members consist of exceptional Russian linguists specifically trained on treaty language.
     4. Broadening. Assignments of this type exist in a “gray” area – sort of belonging to the FAO community, but something thought of as outside the normal FAO assignment. For example, Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Commander; MiTT Commander; Afghanistan-Pakistan (Af-Pak) Hands; and others. Because the FAO is trained in the art of maneuvering through foreign cultures, FAOs tend to be considered for these types of jobs (which frequently accompany a deployment).
     5. Institutional. Finally, someone has to run the Army as an institution, and the FAO frequently meets the bill on this account. A FAO with a staff of more FAOs leads our section of HRC; the DLI commander and many of his/her staff are FAOs; foreign language instructors at both West Point and the Air Force Academy are FAOs; TRADOC has several FAOs serving as liaison officers with other allied/partner nations; FAOs serve as Presidential translators; and FAOs serve as professors at various levels of Professional Military Education (PME) such as CGSC and the War College.

In conclusion, please remember that the purpose of this blog is to generate professional discussion – questions are encouraged. I am obligated to state, at this point, that I have written this blog (although it truly came from the heart) in fulfillment of Combined General Staff College (CGSC), Intermediate Level Education (ILE) requirements. Once again, I do not speak for Army Human Resources Command (HRC); this is from my own experiences. I did not have the benefit of this type of explanatory article when I received instructions to choose a Career Field Designation (CFD). My hope is that this blog can help someone facing that career decision. Good luck!


  • LT Jack Kruse
    1/12/2011 1:26 PM
    Great article! Thanks for sharing! Even though I am a Navy FAO, much of this was applicable and serves as a great template for inter (and intra) service discussion! I have linked to this article on my blog:
  • Tristan James Mabry, PhD
    1/12/2011 7:53 PM
    MAJ Brown-

    An outstanding contribution of immediate value. Further to this discussion, two points:

    1) here at the Naval Postgraduate School we are standing up a pilot program to support the professional development and enhance available resources to all DoD FAOs- information is available at

    2) readers should find an 'An open letter to Army FAOs' by GEN Ward of special interest:
  • Matthew Brown
    1/13/2011 7:10 PM
    Thanks for the comments! Lt Kruse, thanks for forwarding this converstaion to FUUO (which I didn't know about before). Is the Navy FAO program still a dual-track thing? That's a significant dynamic (that you obviously already know about) affecting development.

    Professor Mabry; I actually met you at NPS when you arrived there in 2009, but Tsypkin kept me too busy to take any of our courses. I heard about the proposed Senior FAO Course, and I look forward to attending it one day. Thanks for the GEN Ward reference; I haden't seen it before.
  • Comment removed by admin.
  • Donald
    1/19/2011 8:09 AM

    Great post! I found the FAO duties section especially informative as a new FAO. However, I do have one question: what positions are specifically for majors? I'm trying to finish an OER and i'm not sure what three future assignments I should choose as a FAO. By the way, Im in room C-117 D CO 71st. If you're still in Fort Lee im pretty sure my company supports you while you're at ILE. Feel free to stop by any time.
  • Dave Marone
    1/25/2011 1:07 PM

    Great breakdown of the whole process. I just designated to 48G and I've looked for something like this awhile and haven't found anything until now. I'm an instructor at the NATO School in Oberammergau for the next few years so I'll start FAO training a little later than most, but I already completed ACS at NPS so everything should balance out hopefully. It looks like they are opening ICT sites at CENTCOM and somewhere in D.C at some center....almost sounds like Marshall Center framework. Anyway, thanks for the input.

  • Matt
    1/26/2011 1:07 PM
    Donald; sorry it took me so long to respond. I'll stop by to see if I can help answer your question. Congratulations on getting selected as a FAO!

    You too Dave; I hope the centrally-directed ICT program works out for you. It potentially brings great strengths (if resourced and managed properly). Good luck!!
  • Chris Ghorbani
    2/6/2011 2:18 AM
    Sir, this is by far the most informative article I have read on the life of an FAO. I'm a CPT (YG04) who just finished command time and am quickly approaching that point where my next career decision will most likely map out the rest of my professional future, and I'm seriously considering dropping my FAO packet.

    Do you ever wish you were back in the conventional force or regret your decision to go FAO? And in your current job do you enjoy more freedom to do what you wanted than your old army job? Also, as a FAO can you still deploy to conflicts outside of your country, like an OEF rotation?
  • Matt
    2/7/2011 1:47 PM
    Chris, I spent 10 years in Army Aviation before getting selected for FAO, and yes, I do miss elements of the real Army. I miss the flying and the comraderie that comes with being a team member with a tangible mission, but I don't miss the branch. In my opinion, FAOs do have greater freedom in creative decision making than folks of similar rank in the operational world; and I would argue that this is exactly what DoD wants out of us. It's a great community to be in if you're they type who operates well with just a "commander's intent" statement but without much direct supervision. Just be sure your moral compass is pointing north - that's our community's greatest downfall. For your final question: Yes, LOTS of deployment opportunities!!
  • Chris Ghorbani
    2/19/2011 4:43 PM
    Sir, thanks for the response. I'm at my 7 year mark right now, and I think it's time to drop my packet, but I'm having issues finding a POC to talk about what to submit and when, and unfortunately the proponent website in DA-PAM 600-3 seems to be down. Is there an email or phone POC that I could talk to about going FAO?

    Also, if I meet the language requirement will I be able to choose my AOC? My DLAB is a 123.
  • Dave Marone
    2/20/2011 4:54 AM

    If you're getting ready to go through the CFD board, the FAO questionaire is on the Proponent ( website on the bottom left hand corner (before you have to login to the page that goes nowhere). Fill out the questionaire and send to LTC Womack or LTC DeCecco; there's also a generic proponent email listed on the questionaire. Take the GRE if you can and you're not deployed. A 123 will not guarantee your AOC, but would likely put you in a category four language depending on your other qualifications. Shortages are 48 G, D, J and H or I, I think. I just designated to 48G via the VTIP and had a 126 DLAB--I asked for G as my 1st choice and received it. If you're doing the VTIP, just follow the MILPER instructions. Good luck.

  • Matt N
    2/20/2011 1:38 PM
    I'm an Infantry officer (right now just a 1LT) looking for some career possibilities, and foreign area officer really interests me. I have one question pertaining to the selection/regional assignment process. I understand that you could ultimately be assigned anywhere, but because I have a family, it's important to me that I be assigned to a country where it is safe to take my family. When you initially apply for FAO and subsequently get selected, do you find out what region you are going to be assigned to before you accept the job, or do you accept it blindly? It would probably be a dealbreaker for me to accept the job if I had no idea where I would be assigned until after starting training.
    I appreciate it, sir. This post has been very helpful with fleshing out what exactly an FAO does.
  • Dave M
    2/20/2011 4:16 PM

    AOCs are assigned after accession and FAO and proponent is very clear that you have to be able to accept any AOC. The idea of "safety" for your family is all relative and I would argue, non-country specific. Besides, FAOs are assigned to many different countries during their careers. MAJ Brown probably has additional insight on this. Good luck.
  • Matt Brown
    2/21/2011 1:20 PM
    Dave is right - you receive an AOC after assession... However, I've found that after studying a language and getting a Masters, most FAOs wouldn't trade their region for anything! As for the safety/security aspect, both DoD and DoS are very sensitive to these issues; they won't let you take a family unless it's safe. Some of our overseas missions are non-command sponsored, but most are quite safe.

    Chris, if you still can't find a POC; let me know and I'll put you in touch with someone.
  • Chris Ghorbani
    2/21/2011 2:33 PM
    I could definitely use all the points of contact I can get. It looks like LTC DeCecco is out of office right now. I shot an email to LTC Womack though.

    My own email is
    3/13/2011 11:26 AM
    Helo Matt,
    Escuse me for disturbing you. Only one question I have ...Have you ever been in Zagreb? I need this your answer. I think , if I am not confuse we know each other. I think YES. Are you also from Scottish.
    I am waitting your answer,
    Good day,
  • Matt Brown
    3/14/2011 12:16 PM
    Sorry, Mihaela. That wasn't me... I've never been to Zagreb; although I've heard it's wonderful.
  • Basil Fedun
    5/28/2011 2:28 PM

    I am an Army cadet at the University of Colorado at Boulder. My majors are international affairs and Russian Studies. I have studied abroad in Russia and Ukraine multiple times, and am returning for another study abroad trip to Moscow, paid for by the DoD. I have read your blog, and am most intrigued. I understand that an FAO position wouldn't be something to consider until I actually begin my career as an officer, and I have a good idea of what I want to do prior to that.I already speak conversational Russian and French, and a small amount of Ukrainian. What should I do/what do you recommend I do to increase my chances of becoming an FAO in Ukraine or Russia? Thank You!
  • Ilya Dashevsky
    5/30/2011 9:39 PM
    I think you misspoke when you stated that presidential translators belong to the Institutional Army. I happen to be one and I can tell you that we - Washington-Moscow Direct Communications Link, or MOLINK, belong to the Joint Staff (J-3) and deal almost exclusively with political-military and certain technical matters.
  • Dave Marone
    5/31/2011 3:15 AM

    You're already on the right track. The three main components of training are language studies, In-country experience, and graduate schooling. If you can excel in any of these areas, which it seems you already have, accession shouldn't be overly difficult for you. Keep in mind, you have to have a TS-SCI clearance to be a FAO, you have to pass the DLPT regardless of language skills, and your basic branch has to release you in conjunction with FAO bringing you on board. Choose your basic branch wisely...more FAOs tend to come from combat arms since they are overage/bottom-heavy branches (IN, FA, EN) etc. I'm an MI officer and it took me 3 attempts to finally become a FAO, so it can definitely be done, just a bit harder depending on your YG strength. If the Voluntary Transfer Incentive (VTIP) program is still around when you come on active duty, you should look at going that route--it will give you the opportunity to "guarantee" accession to FAO branch while you complete your key developmental company grade assignments and alleviate you from having to worry about it during the 7 year functional designation board. Hope this helps.
  • CPT Natalia Mercedes-Williams
    7/20/2011 10:02 AM

    Thank you for the article!!! I'm a FAO (48J) too and will be going to DLI (French) and then ICT (Ethiopia) starting in Jan 2012. This article gave me the perspective on what to expect while doing my FAO training. I will forward this to other officers thinking on switching to the FAO branch for a very well-written explanation of this career path.

    CPT MW
    • Matt
      7/20/2011 3:00 PM
      Congratulations on getting selected for FAO, Natalia! I hope you like this career field as much as I do... Good luck in training!

  • CPT Henry Cartagena
    8/7/2011 3:39 PM
    Thank you for all these insights into the FAO world. I will definitely drop my VTIP packet this month (AUG). I have a 3/3 in Spanish and a DLAB of 107, along with an MA in Org Security MGT. I'm looking to become a 48B and attend NPS. Any 48Bs out there to discuss ICT opportunities in Latin America?
  • susan
    8/7/2011 10:55 PM
    please explain what the FAO job in Kabul would include.
  • Matt
    8/8/2011 2:45 AM
    @ Susan: I can't speak with authority on this topic (Afghanistan is outside of my region and the security situation there is unique), but I could imagine that Commanders could use FAOs to work Pol-Mil and Security Assistance jobs. Additionally, US Embassy Kabul will have a Defense Attache (+ staff).
  • Dominic
    8/31/2011 12:12 PM
    I am very seriously considering FAO as a my CFD of choice. Unfortunately I am not sure if they would consider me. My undergrad GPA falls below the requirement. Is this waiverbale? If the GRE scores and DLPT and DLAB were high enough, and my write up strong enough, could I be considered? Thanks in advance.
  • Dave Marone
    8/31/2011 5:00 PM
    FAO has become very competitive in the latest accessions although the GPA requirement is likely waiverable to a 2.0 (check the ACS manual). Your best bet is to do very well on the GRE and or/get a graduate degree on your own. If you had below a 2.0, i imagine the only option would be for you to get a graduate degree on your own. Contact proponent and they can probably give you the latest, but average DLABs have been in the 120s and GPAs around 3.0 or higher. Good luck.
  • Patrick F
    1/25/2012 7:34 AM
    Hey sir, I studied portuguese at school and ended up studying in Brazil and met my wife down there. Would the fact that my wife is a Brazilian native have any negative effect on my chances at getting a 48B slot? She's going through the naturalization process now.

    Also, is there any tracker or projections of the needs of the army for different FAO AOCs?

    Thanks. Great article.
  • Matt
    1/26/2012 2:19 AM
    Patrick, Thanks for the comment! Your wife won't hinder your selection to FAO or 48B. In the 48E community there are lots of FAOs with Russian/Ukrainian/etc wives. In fact, it could HELP you get selected for 48B (it demonstrates that you have a passion for the region). One very important thing to note, however, is that DIA will never select you to be a Brizillian attache (DAO) because you have a Brizillain wife... Potential conflict of interest, and they're very strict on that point. I don't know about SOCOM and the ODC job.

  • Matt
    1/26/2012 2:23 AM
    As for your question about projections of the need for FAOs in different AOCs: I don't know of anthing published outside of HRC. It would be best to ask that question (delicately) to the FAO recruiting folks.
  • CPT Russell Micho
    3/4/2012 1:57 PM
    Hello, I just found out that I have been approved for FAO branch in the most recent VTIP. Although I have been approved my family and I are still debating on whether or not to accept the transfer. It is a bit daunting considering I won't know my AOC until I am in the branch 100%. I just have some concerns about my family and quality of life. Right now, we have a 10 month old and we are not done having children. I just wanted to know what the schools for children are like, healthcare for family, what family life is like in general, things of that nature. Also, how is one selected for an AOC? Is it purely needs of the Army or are other factors considered?
  • CPT Merrill Walker
    3/10/2012 3:22 AM
    Matt, thanks for the post. I just got picked up to become 48E. When you were doing your IRT in Germany, what did your wife do when you where gone to the Ukraine and Georgia? Seems like you were away from the family lot that year. Do you know this compairs to other 48E who did other IRTs? Thanks for the information.
    • Amird
      3/13/2012 7:53 AM

      I am a C currently at the Marshall Center with several other Echos that can help you with that question. This article is absolutely spot on! I can put you in touch with one of them. We're fiinishing our year here shortly. Check your ako.
  • Dr. Tristan Mabry
    3/12/2012 12:51 PM
    To CPT Walker (and everyone on this discussion)-

    First, congratulations on joining the best of the international best!

    Second, you may want to activate an account on FAOweb, a Joint portal for all FAOs. Please note there is a page of senior FAO mentors who have volunteered to answer any questions, including a good number of 48E's, as well as B's, G's and J's as above. There is also a Family resources page.

    The website is and the POC for account updates is

  • Matt
    3/26/2012 3:27 AM
    Thanks for noting the FAOweb, Dr. Mabry. I forgot to mention it to the broader community.

    To all: FAOweb is a really great forum to keep up with what's going on with the branch and to find answers. I endorse it 100%!!

    To Russell and Merrill: sorry I haven't gotten back to you (mission!). The answer for each of you is that it depends... Some FAO jobs require a lot of travelling, and others provide a more stable schedule. My circumstances allowed my wife and daughter to travel with me to Georgia and to the Baltics (during ICT), and around Germany with me now that I'm in a FAO billet. Additionally, for me, my time away from home has changed from large blocks of time (no more FTX / Deployments) into small blocks (short TDYs). Sorry I can't be more specific.

    As for selecting an AOC. You have to sell yourself to FAO by demonstrating competency in the region you want (academic degrees in subjects covering the AOC, DLPT scores, past regional travel and experience, etc...). Otherwise, I believe it comes down to needs of the Army.

    Good luck! Matt
  • Kassi Bienusa
    4/2/2012 1:45 AM
    What are the eight requirements for the selection process? I'm doing a briefing for ROTC and decided to brief FAO.
  • Matt
    4/2/2012 3:55 AM
    Kassi, I recommend using DA Pam 600-3 (1 Feb 2010), Chapter 28 to prepare for your brief (you can find a pdf version on-line). In general, when giving an "introduction" type brief, it's a good technique to use the base document.
  • Zach Martinolich
    4/15/2012 10:45 PM
    I am currently a high school senior and I'm in the process of charting a long term career path. I am currently enrolled in army JROTC at my school and I plan on taking it in college, where upon I am planning on majoring in political science and economics. My path thus far entails obtaining potions within the army that will build upon one another to eventually lead me to become an elected official in one form or another. Upon my commission I plan on entering into the army intelligence community; after which I will volunteer to become a psychological operations officer; and finally I wish to join the FAO corps. So my question for you is, are these types of transitions possible under current regulations and are they adequate in the sense that they all build upon one another to some degree?
    • Matt
      4/20/2012 8:09 AM
      @ Zach: An early Army career in Military Intelligence is a great starting point for either FAO (Functional Area 48), Psychological Operations (FA 37) or Civil Affairs (FA 38), and any of these career paths is (my opinion) a fantastic way to gain some solid credentials that could support a political career after the military. There is a great deal of overlap between these functional areas, but each represents a unique career path in the Army. For example, officers who start MI and then move to FAO do not transfer around any more; they're FAOs for the rest of their career. Pick one and go for it; the Army rewards motivation!!

      @ Khadijah: FAOs are currently recruited from the officer ranks only, so the answer to your question is: OCS. With a background in the region and language, you have the beginnings of a good application packet.

      For both of you, remember that FAO accessions happen only after you've been an officer for 6-8 years. It's very important to have long term asperations, but remember to focus on your present assignment. Whether that's finishing high school with the best grades possible, finishing college and getting selected for OCS, or performing well as a lieutenant; don't slack off in anything you do. Everything in life (and the military is included in this) builds from step to step. Good luck!
  • Khadijah
    4/16/2012 5:25 AM
    Im a senior Political Science major and Arabic minor in the university. During college Ive spent 5 months studying in Jordan and eight months in Khartoum, Sudan. I would like to become an FAO. Should i do regular enlistment after college as an Army linguist studying Farsi (what i want) or go straight for Officer Candidate School? Please let me know. Defense Language Institute is a very good opportunity to pick up another critical language. I can be reached at KhadijahNorman at
    • Matt
      4/20/2012 8:10 AM
      @ Khadijah: FAOs are currently recruited from the officer ranks only, so the answer to your question is: OCS. With a background in the region and language, you have the beginnings of a good application packet.

      For both of you, remember that FAO accessions happen only after you've been an officer for 6-8 years. It's very important to have long term asperations, but remember to focus on your present assignment. Whether that's finishing high school with the best grades possible, finishing college and getting selected for OCS, or performing well as a lieutenant; don't slack off in anything you do. Everything in life (and the military is included in this) builds from step to step. Good luck!
  • Andre
    5/1/2012 9:36 PM
    I am a senior O2, should be picking up O3 and going to CCC here shortly. Can anyone let me know if the FAO program is looking for specific branches, such as MI for example, or is the branch irrelevant for this program? No one seemed to have an exact answer for me so far. All help is greatly appreciated.

  • Dave Marone
    5/2/2012 7:59 AM

    Branch is not completely irrelevant because FAO branch's willingness and ability to accept you is predicated on MI (or whatever branch you are) branch's ability to release you according to officer strengh for your particular YG. With that said, apply for the VTIP as frequently as you can until you are accepted. What you will find is that when the VTIP opens for a particular YG, several officers will apply to become FAO's in the first round. Let's say FAO takes 45 in the first round with the goal of getting to 70 total for the whole YG. That leaves ~25 openings for remaining quarterly VTIP boards which means with each successive board, your chances are going to decline. Also bear in mind that the VTIP has made the process exponentially more competitive due to the fact that FAO gets to screen all the packets and has a greater say in who they accept. Do whatever you can to learn some proficiency in a language and/or get a graduate degree in a related field. I was MI and it took me three tries to become a 48G, but eventually it happened. Good luck.
  • Dave
    5/2/2012 8:04 AM
    Here is the FAQ that also provides context for your question.

    Can you provide statistics for those officers applying to FAO (those selected and those not selected)?
    A) The only statistic we were cleared to put out is that of the “qualified” packets submitted to LDD for transfer since the beginning of the VTIP, approximately 65% of the transfers are approved. Of the total number of officers requesting transfer “IN” to FAO, about 40% were approved by the VTIP panel. As you can see, the VTIP has become extremely competitive on the aggregate (based on overall file strengths). It’s important to note that the VTIP panel’s approval decision is not a simple cut & dry GPA/GRE/DLAB score comparison, so any published statistics may be open to misinterpretation. Applicant cohort year group, the needs of the branch by AOC, the experience and language skills of the officers participating in the VTIP, graduate degrees already earned in applicable disciplines, etc….these are all factors that weigh into the VTIP panel’s decision and FAO Branch/Proponent’s internal-OML. Lastly, even extremely competitive applicants that were recommended for transfer approval into FAO Branch by FAO Proponent were not approved in the past by the VTIP panel. While we understand this can be disheartening, we attempt to encourage these officers to reapply at the next available opportunity.

    Other questions can be found at this link.
  • Yon
    5/13/2012 6:17 AM
    Im YG07 and interested in FAO career. Im Korean native and speak the language fluently. Also my wife is Korean. Is it possible to get 48H?
  • Matt
    5/14/2012 2:44 AM
    Yon, yes it is possible. Being a native speaker does not disqualify you from becoming a 48H. In fact, this could be a major factor in FAO HRC selecting you for 48H. You should take a look at the US Army HRC website for specific instructions on making a VTIP (Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program) application. On the FAO site you'll find information about Active FAO Accessions, and on the homepage you'll find MILPER Message 12-131 (info on FY12 3rd Quarter VTIP board).
  • Juliette Ritzman
    9/5/2012 12:03 PM
    Maj Brown,
    I haven't read through all the responses, so forgive me if there may be an answer already to my questions.
    I too am a 'Hooker', having returned to service to fly the awesome CH47D. I retired as an O4 and I'm now a CW2 in the Reserves. I realize being a FAO is a separate branch. Is it possible as a warrant officer to begin training as a FAO with the goal of switching? My dream job is to utilize my Spanish (native speaker) and apply my Masters (in progress; MSA in International Administration). Being a FAO makes more sense than trying to find the equivalent in the civilian sector. If FAOs can still fly, then I'd have THE ideal job!
    Thank you.


    • Matt
      9/7/2012 3:31 AM
      Juliette, please contact me at my AKO e-mail:

      It's probably better if we discuss this off-line. You know... Hooker to Hooker! Plus, I've got some questions for you!! Matt

  • charie
    9/10/2012 6:04 AM
    I want to be a FAO but my wife has concerns about the quality of life. Right now, we have a twin 6 year old girls. I just wanted to know what the schools for children are like, healthcare for family, what family life is like in general, how does transportation work (do we take our cars or the Army provides for the families, things of that nature.
    Thank in advance for your help
    • Matt
      9/11/2012 10:58 AM
      Charlie, there's absolutely no difference between the FAO and Regular Army lifestyle. Most overseas FAO duty stations where there is not a DoD installation (ie.. most embassy postings) are in capital cities where conditions are usually very civilized. For schools, most capital cities around the world have English speaking international schools run by for-profit companies. Example: QSI (Quality Schools International) is a company that runs several schools in the 48E (Eurasia) AOC. Healthcare, this is a bit more tricky. Embassies employ a US medical team that works with host nation doctors for minor care. For major issues, we medivac. EFMP applies to FAO postings, so if there's an EFMP issue the FAO either becomes ineligible for the posting or has to take a different assignment where medical facilities are available (ie.. DC area). Transportation is the standard Army system... We bring our cars and some household goods (embassy personnel live in furnished houses in order to avoid having to move furniture). Family life (my opinion here) is fantastic!! If you like to travel (which my family does) this is the #1 career field for it! My family and I spent 6 weeks this summer in Moldova: I was on TDY and my wife and daughter spent the time exploring the country!
  • Mohammed
    10/14/2012 12:50 AM
    Good afternoon gentlemen, a short background. I am a US born citizen of Egyptian decent, I speak fluent Arabic and English. Did translating work in Iraq on my deployment as a Medic with the 82D. I am now a 23 year old freshman in college, where do I go from here? Ive known about this FAO program when I was a teenager. Do I go into Political Science/Economics like I plan? Does a specific degree matter right now? How about my age? I will be 28 when I graduate with my Bachelors. Go to ROTC? What Branch should I look into trying to get branched as? Im thinking Intel, Signals, or one of the combat arms branches. Thank you in advance for your answers.
  • Matt
    10/17/2012 9:47 AM
    Mohammed, for commissioning purposes the US Army is (typically) uninterested in your under-graduate major. However, the FAO career field does seem to be filled with officers from the traditional Combat Arms + MI and seems to seek out officers with a background in Poli-Sci, Econ, languages. That said, there are plenty of FAOs who have engineering undergraduate degrees, so there's no fixed rule here. As for your age, FAO won't care, but the Army might. There's a max age for commissioning, but I don't know what it is (a recruiter or ROTC instructor could answer this). Can you use your GI-Bill while receiving a ROTC scholarship? If so, max out your benefits now! Good luck!!
  • Alex
    10/18/2012 10:12 AM
    Sir, I am a recently selected 48B and I just wanted to let you know I really appreciate what you've done with your blog. I got most of my info from here before applying. Thanks for staying current with it.
    • Matt
      10/19/2012 5:51 AM
      Thanks Alex, and good luck with the training!
  • Carlos
    11/10/2012 1:50 PM
    how did the process work, after you where selected for FA 48 did you get to say what area AOC you wanted or did the FAO branch just put you in wherever they wanted. in other words if selected for FAO can you talk with the branch and try to get the AOC you prefer or try to change an AOC if possible or it is just luck of the draw and their is no say so in the process.
    thank you in advance.
    • Matt
      11/26/2012 3:00 AM
      @ Carlos, FAO branch will ultimately assign you an AOC based on their needs. However, they honestly do try to match up folks with what they want and an AOC for which they are best suited. In my case, I wanted to be a Eurasian FAO, and I studied Russian in my past; so I played up that point in my application. In the end, I was assigned the Eurasian AOC because (I assume) it worked out for both FAO Branch and for me.
  • Jesse
    11/11/2012 11:43 AM

    Thank you for this information. As a man in his early thirties, I've decided I don't want to wait another decade to begin working in a foreign capacity. That being said, I intend to start as a crypto-linguist and apply for attaché positions. That being said, could you say a few words about the enlisted men who work with you, in whatever capacity? I know that FAO and 35P are different sides of the house, but I do wonder what it is like to serve as an NCO for an FAO. Perhaps you can point me in he direction of someone who knows first-hand.
    • Matt
      11/26/2012 9:12 AM
      Jesse, I currently work in the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) as a Conventional Arms Control Inspector. This agency employs Russian linguists from the USA, USAF, and USMC (because naval forces are excluded from most arms control agreements, we don't have any of their linguists). We work side-by-side during inspections and any other types of missions that we execute, and the relationship between the FAO-Interpreter is pretty much what you would imagine: close but professional. I rely heavily on the interpreters, and they are a great source for me to get better at Russian... Our interpreters are selected through a nominative process even before training starts. They attend a year long Arms Control language course at DLI before starting with DTRA, and then they serve a 3 year tour. Therefore, it could be said that DTRA employs some of the best interpreters DoD has to offer, and they get better while they're here! Because of the nominative process, the absolute youngest (in age and professionally) interpreter will already be an NCO, so they additionally serve as the core source of institutional leadership within this strange agency. I hope this was helpful. If you have more specific questions, you should seek out a point of contact at either DLI or HRC.
  • John
    11/20/2012 8:30 PM
    I've heard a lot about the FAO program but I was hoping you could set me straight on a couple of things. I have family in Lithuania, have studied in and visited the country several times, and would like to spend more time there in the future. Does Lithuania fall under any of the AOCs? I've seen it listed in some places but not in others. Same question about learning the language. I have a basic understanding of it and am doing what I can to teach myself, but I haven't seen it listed anywhere as one of the languages taught in Monterey. Since the language isn't widely spoken anywhere but the country itself, would that result in my spending the majority of my time there rather than travelling from one country to another (i.e. Latvia or Estonia)? I'm a 1LT who's trying to make up his mind about staying in or not- if the army can give me what I want, I'd like to find out as much as possible about it so I can do things in the proper order. If not, I'll get out and try my luck on the civilian side of things. Thanks in advance for everything- your blog's been one of the best sources of information I've come across so far.
    • Matt
      11/28/2012 3:47 AM
      @ John, Excellent question - this comes up very often in the FAO branch because we employ a lot of officers who speak English as a second language. Lithuania is currently in AOC Euraisa (it having been part of the Soviet Union), however the AOC status of the three states in the Baltic Region is controversial. The reason (and I'm sure you know this): the three Baltic States didn't willingly join the USSR (they considered it a military occupation) and they are now both EU and NATO members. Regardless of where Lithuania ends up in the long run, Russian will (my opinion) remain a lingua franca both there and in the greater Baltic region. If you VTIP into FAO and play up your credentials as an ethnic Lithuanian, there's a good chance you could train to become a Eurasian AOC specialist. However, there is also a good chance that you will never get assigned to Lithuania. First, there's no such thing as a "Lithuanian FAO" - you've got to be prepared to be a regional specialist. It's great that you know the regional language, but FAO will expect you to speak Russian as a primary language. Second, (and I don't 100% know the rules on this point) but if you've still got family there, the DoD may consider this a conflict of interest. The best POC for this question would be FAO HRC.
  • JC
    11/21/2012 8:22 AM
    Sir, I'm currently wrapping up MICCC and looking at career options for a few years down the road. I took a DLPT in Farsi last summer after some self-study and got a 2+/2+, but would still like to acquire a language at DLI. Do you know if that's possible? Farsi is a bit like Russian was 30 years ago in that the AOC (Iran) has little interest in hosting Americans. Since a Farsi-speaking FAO would likely live in Turkey, Azerbaijan, etc. I'd hope to get the chance to go to DLI for Turkish. Thanks for your response and for this blog.
    • Matt
      12/1/2012 3:26 AM
      JC, to answer your question about training/serving in Iran, take a look at my post on 28 Nov 2012 I sent to John. Farsi is a high-demand language right now, but there's no such thing as an "Iranian FAO" - you'll be a regional specialist, and DoD will expect you (even if your language is Farsi) to serve anywhere in the region (even in coutries where the they speak something else). Being 2+/2+ in Farsi is good news-bad news: it will probably help you (significantly) get into FAO, but HRC will probably not send you to DLI. You'll be an attractive candidate to FAO HRC precisely because we can get you into FAO service faster than a non-speaker. Also, take a look at the AOC map to see which countries are associated with Iran, and thus where a Farsi speaking FAO might serve. Turkey is in AOC West-Europe (NATO member) and Azerbaijan is in AOC Eurasia (former member of the Soviet Union), while Iran is in AOC Middle-East. Hope this all helps; good luck finishing up CCC, Matt
      • JC
        12/3/2012 9:58 PM
        I reviewed the AOCs in DA PAM 600-3 and it seems the breakdown is by country, not by language. Is there another resource that sorts them by the dominant languages taught for each one? If I passed a French DLPT, could that potentially span France/Lebanon/Senegal/Vietnam/etc.? Also, 28-3-4c of DA PAM 600-3 makes it sound like the waiver on civilian schooling is optional. Is that the case or are you out of luck if you already have a degree in the desired field? Thanks.
  • Juan Carlos
    11/24/2012 11:27 PM
    I would like to know what type of jobs can FAO do after a 20 year carrier in the military. I would love to be a FAO but would like to know what FAOs typically do after retiring from the Army, are they good paying jobs specific for FAOs or is it the type of job that once you are out of the Army the only thing you have is a strong managerial background and your total amount of years of experience as an officer.
    • Matt
      12/1/2012 3:53 AM
      Juan, I'm interested in this myself... I don't plan on retiring any time soon, and I haven't known enough retiring FAOs to get a sense of what comes next. I can't help but think that these skills would transfer to some other related career field, but I don't know what's in demand. Maybe I'll blog about this in a few years...
  • Dave Marone
    11/27/2012 4:27 PM
    JC--It is possible you may be sent for another language. This depends heavily on your year of accession within your career timeline and what training is available at that time. Language training was waived for me because I already had a 2+/2+ in a target region language. Don't get too bogged down in what languages are spoken in the various regions; and don't take anything for granted. If you speak Farsi, they would likely make you a 48D (South Asia) and Turkey doesn't belong to that career management group so there's a slim chance of that occuring. The more likely option would be Bengali or Hindi
    • JC
      11/27/2012 7:09 PM
      Thanks for your response. Would you mind elaborating on the "year of accession within your career timeline" point? Is there an ideal TIG for O-3s to make the move to FAO? Should I infer that CPTs with less TIG get more training time because the positions they're training for are O-4 billets?

      Also, I haven't seen anyone discuss the matter of the ADSO. Do you commit to X more years early in the application process or is the contract signed after you have an MOS assigned?
      • Matt
        12/1/2012 4:19 AM
        JC, The FAO training track is the same duration no matter when you start. HRC wants highly trained FAOs, but even more important than that, they want officers available to work! There are more billets than FAOs, so HRC is trying to keep the training pipeline as short as possible. Incidentally, there is something positive here for the individual because training AERs don't get your promoted; good OERs do. I can't speak for anywhere else, but if you arrived to DTRA as a CPT (for a MAJ billet) it wouldn't make a bit of difference... You would be just another FAO in his/her first FAO assignment (CPTs/MAJs are the "2LTs" of the FAO community).

        Standard ADSO rules apply for FAO training: 3-for-1 served concurrently. So if you go to DLI for a year and then to grad-school for a year you'll owe ~2 years at the end of your training. No contract...
  • Dave Marone
    11/27/2012 4:34 PM
    Juan Carlos--FAO's work in a variety of jobs after their military careers. Everything from DoD, to State Dept, Private industry, defense, etc. I think what you are asking is "do FAOs have marketable skills in the private sector/USG when they become civilians? This would depend on the kind of work you want to do, but generally, speaking multiple languages in some cases, working abroad, and possessing advanced education and skills will make most FAOs extremely marketable to potential employers--more so than many of their peers. I work with plenty of retired FAOs and almost all are doing extremely well. That said, focus on doing well in whatever career path you choose and the rest will fall in place.
  • Evan T
    12/3/2012 2:13 AM
    MAJ Brown

    First off, thanks for writing this it's brought clarity to getting to what I want out of my career after I commission in a few months. The VTIP program was something I wasn't aware of until just now and plan learning more once I'm done writing this. Furthermore, your points on selecting one's branch with the knowledge that long-term FAO is the plan / goal has been very helpful and has demystified a very critical decision I have to make soon. I already had gathered that personal travel experiences and foreign language where important, but this has given me the specific understanding of how that is quantified.

    My question has to do with long term promotability potential and rates in the field, is there a glass ceiling of sorts for the MOS at all and what are promotion rates like within the MOS compared to other branches / CFD's? Also, how is the FAO is dealing with drawbacks in the military today?
  • Matt
    12/8/2012 9:38 AM
    Evan, 2 great questions - I'll take them one at a time;

    Promotion rates for FAOs are similar to the rest of the Army through O-6 (rates fluxuate from year to year, but over the long term it's about the same). FAOs are assessed as senior CPTs and then pin MAJ sometime during training. Ideally, the FAO gets at least one duty assignment as a MAJ before being considered for LTC. Like the rest of the Army, the personnel pyramid narrows greatly at the rank of COL and not everyone makes it. I would say that the FAO career path does have a "glass ceiling" in that extremely few FAOs ever get selected for BG (the Senior Defense Officials in Russia and China are currently the only 2), and there are no further promotions for these lucky few (to my knowledge).

    Post-Iraq drawdowns are impacting all branches and year groups, and this includes the FAO career field as well. As I understand it, as we begin to shrink our force, the Army G-1 will identify and select billets to remove from the Army force structure. The impact of this will be that HRC will have fewer billets to offer the FAO force. Currently, there are more billets available than there are available FAOs, so even if we lose billets there should be no immediate impact to the FAO field. As individuals our options when chosing an assignment will narrow greatly, but there will still be (to some point) available position.

    A secondary point here is that the Army is begining to look at ways to get officers from some of the older year groups to separate (retire). If these actions are successful, then the number of available FAOs will begin to shrink along with the number of available billets.
  • Evan T
    12/9/2012 7:50 PM
    MAJ Brown;

    Thanks for your reply, as a follow up regarding career paths to FAO I believe I am understand that the time to apply is around the 7 year mark, after having complete CCC (and by extension receiving positive marks on ones Company / Troop / Battery command time -read "above center of mass" on the OER). Would it be wise to retain ones initial branching until reaching the point of dropping a FAO packet or is time spent in other FA's (Functional Area's) useful, such as PAO (Public Affairs Officer).

    To clarify for readers unfamiliar with the career path of US Army Officers, there are three major decision points about ones career, they are your initial branch selection prior to commissioning where you are assigned to one of the sixteen basic branches and then again at the (roughly) four year mark before you attend CCC (Captain Career Course). After seven years of service (again, this is approximate), you will have the opportunity to select to either change your branch or select a FA. Not that at the four year mark prior to attending CCC you can select to either transfer to another basic branch or apply for the FA's.
  • Matt
    12/10/2012 2:23 AM
    Evan, I honestly don't know the answer to this question. I've never heard of anyone (for example) serving in the basic branch, then serving a Functional Area assignment in PAO, and then getting a Career Field Designation as FAO. I'm not a human resources type, so I don't know how this would affect you long term. I do know that HRC constantly highlights the point that what will get you promoted is how well you do the job, not which job you have. Definitely strive for the ACOM (particularly during company command) as this will be your resume for whatever path you take in life: basic branch, FAO, a civilian career, whatever...

    The application timeline has changed since I went through in the late 2000s, and now it's the Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program (VTIP) board that quarterly at HRC. You should take a look at DA PAM 600-3, Chapter 28 for more details about VTIP; then find the most recent MILPER message for even more specifics. As I understand it, year groups 2005-2008 are the current target for VTIP. This board will DEFINITELY look at your past OERs, so strive for the best marks possible!
  • Sam
    1/3/2013 8:41 AM

    I'm a YG2008 Infantry CPT. I'm finished with MCCC, but haven't started my company command time.

    Lots of questions here...

    Will FAO packet-scrubbers and the VTIP panel consider a TRADOC (basic training company) command as KD time, or do I have to command an MTOE rifle company in a BCT for it to count as KD time?
    Would one of these command positions make me more competitive than the other?
    Waiting for a rifle company would delay my ability to VTIP by 12-18 months.

    In my current situation, I could earn one of the FAO recommended graduate degrees for about $7500 of my own money prior to being eligible for VTIP. I understand that this would likely eliminate ACS as an opportunity after language training, but would it make me more competitive for VTIP?
    Would having the degree increase the chance of getting my AOC of choice?
    Should I save the $7500 and utilize free training to attempt a pre-VTIP 2/2 DLPT in my preferred language instead?
    What's the best use of my self-development time prior to VTIP?

    Can I truly shape my AOC assignment by working hard, spending the money and having a degree AND a 2/2 ahead of time?

    Thanks for your time, Sir.
  • Matt
    1/3/2013 3:21 PM
    Sam, I know that commanding an IET company counts for KD time for promotion purposes, but I don't know if the VTIP board would look at one company command different than another company command. What probably matters the most is your performance during your command time, not they type of unit it was. In my opinion, the fact that VTIP is looking at officers in their 5th year of commissioned service is an indicator that they value KD jobs less than they do a trend of good performance. If you're eligible, and you want it, then you should submit an application for the VTIP board immediately.

    The best use of your self-development time prior to VTIP... I recommend throwing all your "chips" into language for two reasons: (1) showing language aptitude up front is probably more important than showing academic aptitude up front (when I went through, we didn't even take the GRE until we were accepted into the program). FAO branch's #1 selling point to the Army is our language capability - because otherwise, we're just a group of educated combat arms officers. (2) The best way to become competative for a particular AOC is to get DLPT scores for a language in that AOC. For example, if you want to become a Eurasian FAO, study and test in Russian! It's not used anywhere else, so if you've got a 2/2 in Russian at the VTIP board - 99% you're going to be a Eurasian FAO. However, a degree in IR doesn't help with AOC selection at all, and even a degree in Eurasian Regional Studies wouldn't be a guarantee. Keep in mind, studying and testing in French will 99% guarantee AOC Africa - not Western Europe... Spanish = South America, not Western Europe. There are cheap ways to gain a language (Rosetta Stone through AKO and DLI distance learning materials), so hang on to your cash for now.

    However, I would also submit current (and qualifying) GRE scores (they're good for 5 years) with your VTIP packet. This will give the board a good indication of your academic aptitude, and therefore it will give the board a good feeling that you can actually finish the training you've started. Maybe spend some of your money on a GRE test prep book and self-teach. The Army will pay for your first GRE (subsequent tests are on you).

    Good luck!
  • David
    1/7/2013 12:30 PM
    MAJ Brown,

    Found this blog by accident while Googling for something else. It appears as though you’re doing yeoman’s work in helping to foster the Army pro-FAO community. Bravo and thank you. My, albeit now dated, AF (but truly joint) service at the DAOs in Moscow, Paris, and Beijing, consecutively during the ‘80s remains the highlight of both my military and adult life. As one who served in an NCO capacity, and as a graduate of DLI and 2x times honor graduate of FSI, I especially enjoyed GEN (Ret.) Ward’s Jan 2011 Army Magazine article (cited by Dr. Mabry in his 1/12/2011 post) which acknowledged “We are increasingly finding that NCOs are performing important FAO-like work in key partner nations. We need to offer them the same quality training, education and career management as commissioned officers so that they can be just as effective.” Granted that manning and logistical limitations usually resulted in an inverse ratio of officers to NCOs than is the norm in an operational unit, sometimes requiring my support of as many as 8-12 officers, each seemingly believing their needs justified priority. I, however, usually found that military tradition and mindset, at least then, usually resulted in a major underutilization of some NCOs’ language skills, although in my own case in a few instances my language and other skills fortunately resulted in just the opposite, in that I assumed some duties that gave me almost daily direct contact with both high ranking host country military officers, as well as embassy officers and occasionally even very important CONUS-based government officials. Also granted is that the situation could be quite different depending on the mission, country’s traditions, and the leadership of the respective DAO. For what it’s worth, however, I wholeheartedly endorse GEN Ward’s advocacy of quality training, education and career management for NCOs in the FAO arena, and wholeheartedly encourage all qualified NCOs (and officers) of each branch of service to seriously consider FAO-related training and posting. Having just returned (as an Army civilian dependent this time) a year ago from 2 years in Brussels, I can assure you that we Americans continue to be misunderstood (and to misunderstand) by altogether too many of the peoples of the world. Knowledge continues to be power.

    P.S. Back in the day, had the pleasure of working with (now) two former directors of your current unit’s legacy organization, the OSIA.
  • Matt
    1/9/2013 2:23 PM
    David, thanks for bringing up the point of NCOs working in our embassies. The ones I've met in the last 3 years (like you mention) have similar diplomatic duties and responsibilities as the attaches, but they don't typically have the benefit of the dedicated training program that the officer has. GEN Ward's article stirred up some discussion last year, but I haven't heard much about the concept (the development of a NCO-FAO type MOS) this year. I think the current drawdown (and threat of sequestration) is going to push this issue to the back-burner for awhile.

    Also, thank you for your service!
  • Dave
    1/9/2013 3:10 PM

    I completely agree with your points. I just attended DISAM at Wright Patterson AFB and there were plenty of NCO's attending the course, but no block of instruction in over three weeks was dedicated to the role of the NCO in embassy operations. Most of the training is oriented toward the officer who will be the SCO, not the NCO supporting the mission. Additionally, almost all of the instructors were former officers. I work with a former AF NCO who like you, served much of his career in embassies and he's probably one of the smartest guys around on security cooperation. He has made many similiar comments regarding his role.
  • David
    1/9/2013 7:21 PM
    Matt and Dave – much appreciated your feedback and comments. As I mentioned my DAO experiences are now pretty dated (’80-’88). Prior to the first posting, although I attended 47 weeks of language training at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) along with Dept of State, Agriculture, and other government agency officers, anywhere from first-time foreign service officers to consul generals, only the spouses of the military attachés were in our classes. NCOs/POs only attended a one-time, 6-week “station techniques” class, where the stress was on report preparation and budget, teaching us mostly document preparation and filing peculiar to DoD, DIA, and DAS. I don’t recall any familiarization with other services’ pubs, forms, or correspondence formats, something we just learned OJT on station. Can’t speak to how it is now, but then there were enormous differences among the services – probably still so, despite the “purple suit” concept.

    In preparation for going to my first post (and only my first post) I only recall a one-day “cultural sensitivity” class which, I think, was meant just to give us the basic idea that wherever we were going to be posted was “different.” My strongest memory is of the lecturer using the example that, while Americans are avid consumers of corn, most Europeans would recoil at being served corn since there it is common knowledge that corn is livestock feed. We only ever served it once at a meal at which my French military colleague (and best man at my wedding) and his wife were our guests, and they, albeit at first did seem put off, once they tried it and understood that it was a different kind of corn, seemed to at least appear to like it. Could have been just politesse on their part, however, I figured they owed us at least that for all the brains and kidneys I ate there, not to mention my best efforts to try and help them rid their country of their infestation of snails.

    During my years, the AF kept us “assigned” against our primary MOS/AFSC/Rate, and we annually tested and competed against our “peers” AF-wide for promotion. While one exam was AF general military knowledge and the same test used for everyone, the other test was AFSC specific; extra, extra challenging when only a very small percentage of one’s duties was parent service related. The reason I bring that up is that in early ’88, right before my then 3rd tour ended, the AF came out with a “Defense Attaché Specialist” special duty identifier (SDI) whereby one would then only compete for promotion against others in the same duty, regardless of their primary AFSC. I don’t have knowledge of how this worked out for those who followed, and am not now familiar with current AFSCs or SDIs, but I would hope that they continued the practice. Likewise don’t know if the other services ever did/are doing something similar, like the FAO-NCO type MOS you mentioned, Matt, but I would hope that they would.

    Another point is the language training. Again, not familiar with current practices, but I understand that for some years, now, the AF at least, pays some kind of language proficiency pay. This, too, was instituted by the AF only during the last few months of my last tour, and at that time was paid only if one had a high enough DLPT score in the language used in the country to which one was currently assigned. My experience was, while my first trained language was not officially spoken in the second country, being still near fluent in it aided me professionally in my regular official dealings with an important senior officer of that country. Further, although neither of the first two languages in which I had been intensively trained for my first two postings was even remotely common in the third country, I assure you that, while I certainly didn’t use either one on a daily basis, they both came into play and situationally important usage, especially when dealing with this country’s young, very well trained, FAO-type officers. I suppose the DoD mind-set is that, well, even though we’re not paying you extra for that language where you are now, we did train you in it so we would still expect you to use it.

    While now long retired, I still completely understand that the duties and levels of responsibility of officers and NCOs/POs are different. Likewise at an embassy at least, one’s position on a diplomatic list (or even being on the list) is a time honored, universally accepted way for people to sort themselves out, just as it would be in almost any organization except a horizontal one. I understand that horizontal, by necessity, would never work in the military.

    While probably very uncommon, as I alluded to in my earlier post, due to a combination of operational necessity, language ability, or just serendipity, I was fortunate enough as a mid-level NCO to have had duties which put me in regular, official contact outside of the confines of my office with not only senior embassy staff but with host country military personnel of the whole range from junior to senior officers. Almost without exception, I was treated with courtesy, respect, and professionalism; the most important qualification being only whether I knew what I was doing and not the number of stripes on my sleeve (although usually in civilian dress). The same couldn’t always be said within my own organization.

    I would point out, too, that, despite the best efforts to declare an organization as “purple suit,” just as the officers of each service branch retain, and rightfully so, a certain individuality, the NCOs/POs of each service are in fact different as well, depending on their training, experience, maturity, their service’s primary mission and core values, and especially their actual and perceived roles not only over lower ranking enlisted members, but more importantly here, their regular and perceived roles in support of their officers and the manner in which those roles are carried out. Some thought should be given to providing, both to officers and NCOs/POs, some sort of training to identify and familiarize all parties to some of the vagaries of the others.

    Matt, thank you again for this blog. As a direct result, I’ve spent the past couple of days Googling© (and successfully contacting) a couple of those with whom I served now 30 years ago, one of whom was probably the most well-educated, well-trained, experienced, effective, respected, and well-known FAO of his day.
  • CPT Hudson
    1/10/2013 5:12 PM

    First, thank you for your blog and continued activity on it (as well as others). It's definitely helped me shape some of my training goals for the past 2 years or so. Currently I am in the Signal Corps (YG 2008) though I was previously detailed to the Armor corps and I am extremely passionate about pursuing the FAO FA. I want to give a brief back ground of myself in hopes of getting any kind of feedback in order to gain realistic expectations of my future pursuits of becoming a 48C.

    1. I currently have a 3/3 in French (I majored in French for my undergraduate degree), though I only recently took the DLPT for the first time (JAN2013).

    2. I currently have a 1+/3 in German (took it for first time this JAN as well and will take again in 6 months to bring up my listening to a 2 or 3. I didn't realize the DLPT was version IV unlike the French one (DLPT V), which kind of screwed me up).

    3. I will be taking the DLAB in the next few weeks as well as the DLPT for Italian. My goal is to get at least a 120 on my DLAB and possibly a 1/1 in Italian, though I won't be submitting my VTIP packet until one year from now so that I can be 3/3 in both French and German and at least 2/2 in Italian if not better by then.

    4. I am currently stationed in Germany (I have been here for 1 1/2 years and will be here for another 1 1/2 years to go). I have travelled all over Western Europe with my wife and have become very comfortable in the region. My wife (who is American, born and raised) actually has extended family that lives in Italy (they only speak Italian) and France (they speak Italian and French). We have met with them on numerous occasions, which has definitely opened up more of an authentic European experience for me. And given that my unit regularly does exercises with local Bundeswehr Soldiers, I have made a few friendships with some of them (conversing mainly in German). I feel that with my experience in the region (mixed with my language abilities) I could get a waiver for both language training/IRT and go straight to ACS and ILE, thus saving the FAO branch precious time training me from scratch.

    Also, my undergraduate GPA is a 3.4 and I still need to take the GRE this year. All that being said, is there a realistic shot of me being assessed into FAO (pending my current branch releasing me of course) and being designated into the 48C AOC? I greatly appreciate any feedback that you or any others might provide.

  • Dave
    1/10/2013 8:32 PM
    Josh--all of the above are great starters for becoming a FAO. Do you have a realistic shot at becoming a 48C--absolutely. Is it likely--I'm not so sure about that. The simple fact is that AFRICOM just doubled its billets for 48Js and historically has only assessed 4 or 5 officers a year meaning they are looking hard for qualified Js or folks they can easily qualify into Js. The other thing you should consider is that if you obviously have an aptitude for languages and score as high as you think you may on the DLAB, you may also be considered for a G since the DLAB requirements are much higher for harder languages. A lot of the C's now, scored in the 90's/low 100s on the DLAB and for each accession of FAOs, lower DLABs will go to easier languages--just the way it goes. That said, if you get a really high score on the Germany and Italian DLPTs, it may be persuasive enough to make you a C. As the general FAO disclaimer says though you should be prepared to accept any AOC if you want to really be a FAO. One other thing to consider--it's likely FAO branch will begin assign secondary AOCs in the near future so you may find yourself as a J or C with the other as a secondary. Good opportunity to serve on multiple continents. whatever you choose--good luck.
  • Matt
    1/12/2013 12:38 PM
    Josh, Dave's absolutely right on all points. 3/3 in French will probably result in AOC Africa, not Western Europe... I know that's frustrating to hear, but the fact is that there is a higher French demand in AFRICOM than in EUCOM. For your VTIP board, you should emphasize your other experiences/languages in Western Europe, and regardless of what AOC you are assigned, don't let it get you down. The 48Js I know love their AOC!

    I currently work for a 48C who had In-Country Training (ICT) waived because she had served in Germany for several years. That might indeed be a selling point you could use too. You make an excellent point that by (essentially) validating ICT and DLI you will be highly competative at the VTIP board. Budget is driving EVERYTHING in 2013, so if you can advertise yourself as a "cheaper" option it's more likely that you'll get picked up. I think you have the language and professional background FAO is looking for, so you sound very competative.

    Ciao, Matt
  • Carlos Da Silva
    1/13/2013 5:27 PM
    MAJ Brown,

    First, this blog is an outstanding contribution to the FAO community. This blog has shed tremendous light on the life of an FAO. Thank you! Continue the great work.

    Second, I am a recently selected FAO. My AOC will be the Middle East. I requested 48B because I was born in Brazil and have a wealth of experience in my home country. I scored a 115 on my DLAB but really desired to become a 48B. My wife and I are dual military (MACP). She is currently serving in Afghanistan as Logistics Officer with four more years until retirement. We have two children 8 and 13. My wife is not too excited about the Mid-East and quite frankly it’s a hard sell. Nevertheless, I’m excited beyond words about becoming a FAO regardless of the AOC.

    Here are some key concerns and perhaps you can ease some uncertainties.

    a) What is the likelihood of changing my AOC prior to signing my contract? Who is the approving authority?

    b) I believe that language school for Arabic is about one year in length. With my wife and I enrolled in MACP, can she join me in Monterey, CA serving as a staff officer.

    c) During ICT schools for our children is her main concern especially in the Middle East.

    d) How will MACP affect my wife’s job opportunities while I undergo FAO training?

    In conclusion, I ‘m overly excited with a mix of hesitation. Any feedback and advice is highly appreciated.

    CPT Da Silva, Carlos
  • CPT Hudson
    1/14/2013 10:04 AM
    CPT Da Silva,

    When you submitted your VTIP applicaiton, did you include current DLPT scores for Portuguese and Spanish?

    Also, I believe the Arabic training at DLI will take about 1 1/2 years to complete (I know that the total training time for Arabic is 64 weeks, based offf of the official DLI website but I would imagine that does not include days you are not in class. ).

  • Dave
    1/14/2013 12:39 PM

    I'm a 48G also. Although you may not realize it now, you couldn't have a better AOC (ok--I'm sort of biased).

    The liklihood of FAO changing your AOC is not high. Asking to change shows FAO proponent that you're more interested in becoming a 48B than a FAO and this generally isn't viewed as a good thing; especially when there are hundreds of officers trying to become FAOs every VTIP now.

    FAO branch and LG branch would have to work your assignments in conjunction. My advice, go to DLI and ask to do ACS immediately after at NPS. If you can work the timing right, perhaps your wife could retire from Monterey before you go overseas for IRT and she could go as a dependent.

    You will probably find that the international school system makes most general US public schools look inadequate. If your kids are smart and adjust easy, it could be a really great experience for them. Think about who sends their kids there. Company CEOs, diplomats etc. Note of caution though--look at the admissions requirements because some can be very competitive/strict.

    Good luck.
  • Matt
    1/18/2013 11:30 AM

    I've known several FAOs who didn't get their 1st pick of AOC, and just about all of them (once they began to learn the language, culture, importance (with respect to US interests) of their AOC, and had the chance to travel the region) have come around to really liking their AOC. I recommend that you give it a chance and keep focused on the positive aspects of being a FAO. I'm sure Dave could link you and your wife in with the 48G community to address some of those questions in your mind. I'll give away the big secret up front: 48G is much more that Iraq, so don't let past deployment experiences spoil your opinion! A DLI friend of mine is stationed in Doha right now - he (and family) are loving it.

    The Arabic Basic Course at DLI lasts (indeed) 1.5 years. NPS for FAOs is a 1 year program. I don't know how MACP would work for a training assignment to Monterey - the cadre/staff footprint there is VERY small. I imagine, however, that MACP would not be of any help to you for most FAO assignments, so like Dave suggests, it's probably best for her to retire ASAP and become a dependent. Our embassies employ spouses for many staff/operations jobs, so she'll be able to find meaningful work if you get an assignment at an embassy. If you get an assignment at a COCOM or SCC you'll be living in a large American community, so there will be employment opportunities there also. Schools, like Dave noted, are fantastic overseas (I can vouch for those in the Eurasia AOC).

    Keep current Spanish/Portugese DLPS scores because you just never know... There's a guy in 48E (Eurasia) who was born/raised in Lithuania (ethnic Russian), and even served in the Soviet Army before emmigrating to the US. He originally got picked up as a 48B, but half way through the Spanish course FAO caught a clue and transfered him to 48E.

  • Frank McKenzie
    1/22/2013 11:52 AM
    Hello, My daughter is graduating college this Spring and is considering enlisting in the US Army to attend DLI and become a cryptologic liguist. I have looked at all aspects and understand there is no possibility for her to attend as an officer, only as an E-4. She has two years of Arabic, is double majoring in International Studies and Political Science, and already has scored well enough to attend. Is there any possibility of her going to OCS and then attending DLI as a FAO candidate?
  • Matt
    1/22/2013 2:45 PM
    Frank, It sounds like your daughter has a very solid academic foundation of the type the Army FAO Branch is looking for, but unfortunately the FAO program isn't available for entry-level Soldiers. I would guess that the average service time for getting picked up for the FAO program is ~6-8 years as an officer.

    However, I would like to offer my perspective on your daughter's situation: A military career as a linguist can be both rewarding and fulfilling (provided that she is the type of person who likes to be active - it is, after all, still a military job!). It's a very respectable and in-demand profession, and our military has really bought into this concept over the last 10+ years of war. If she enlists as a linguist, she will indeed enter service as an E-4 (due to the BS Degree), and she will meet many others just like her at DLI who also have finished college and joined the ranks. We frequently look to these types of Soldiers for OCS because of their proven academic ability and because they tend to have a bit more life-experience than Soldiers that came in right out of high school. However, I need to caution that some Soldiers who are in your daughter's position have a hard time fitting in because of these exact same attributes. The (minor) difference in age, education and life experience can alienate the college graduate from the high school graduate when they find themselves in the same social/rank status. (Most people do fine, but I just felt the need to throw that out there... back to the positive!) The pay and benefits are an excellent way to take care of student loans, and a tour of duty will help build her credibility and establish the leadership attributes most employers are looking for. I recommend she enlists!!

    Plus, you'll get to go visit her in Monterey, California. Ever been there? It's fantastic!!
    2/15/2013 8:01 PM
    Frank & Matt:
    Frank: I can attest to Monterey, CA being a fantastic place to go; attended DLI in '71-'72 and re-upped in '75 just to go back there as permanent party. Will actually be going through there (on purpose) here in a week or so enroute to the S.F. area just to see it again.
    Matt: I'd mentioned way back in my long-winded 01/09/12 post about recently getting in touch with someone who "was probably the most well-educated, well-trained, experienced, effective, respected, and well-known FAO of his day." Highly recommend you try and find a copy of his pretty recent book, Potsdam Mission, to learn more. While his career path and service could probably be called pretty much unique, having known him back in the day and now just reading his book, I found inspirational.
  • Spence
    3/3/2013 9:17 PM
    Matt and Dave,
    I am currently preparing my packet for the upcoming VTIP board and was wondering if you had any recommendations for completing the Officer's Commentary portion of the FAO Questionairre? Is there anything in particular that I should emphasize or avoid? Any tips you can send my way would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
  • Matt
    3/4/2013 3:26 AM
    Spence, I'm not sure what goes into that commentary. Let's go off-line with this. Shoot me an e-mail at: Send the questionairre so I can see what you're talking about.
  • Dave
    3/4/2013 9:02 AM

    Emphasize your strengths, related experiences and why you want to be a FAO in the commenatary. Focus on your apptitude/qualifications in foreign languages, previous travel abroad, cultural awareness understanding, pol-mil background, desire to serve overseas etc. I would also emphasize willingness to serve in any AOC. Keep it short, clear and to the point and have one or two people you trust read it before submission. Send me an email if you hae other questions.
  • Regan
    3/6/2013 5:56 PM
    Does anyone know of an FAO spouse blog or of a spouse who would be willing to answer questions about kids, schools, etc? My hubby is starting the process and I have some questions and no one to ask. Thank you so much!
  • Matt
    3/7/2013 2:55 AM
    Regan, Welcome to the community!! There are several FAO-spouse blogs on FB, and my wife would be happy to give you a quick intro. Shoot me an e-mail (, and I'll link you two up.
  • Basil Fedun
    3/7/2013 11:22 AM

    I was wondering if you could shed some light on the DLPT. I will be commissioning as an Infantry LT this May, and I want to take the DLPT as soon as possible and possibly get some extra pay. My ultimate goal in the Army, is to become a 48E FAO since I am a Russian studies major, though I will be happy wherever the Army assigns me. Is there anything in particular I should study for the Russian DLPT? How rigorous is the test? And how often as an FAO do you utilize your language skills and what kind of proficiency is needed at the minimum?


    Cadet Fedun
  • Matt
    3/8/2013 4:56 AM
    CDT Fedun, If you get the chance you should try take a DLPT before you graduate (believe it or not, you'll have more time this semester than you will once you get on active duty). Plus, you can retake the test after 6 months, so if your scores are low it doesn't really matter.

    The DLPT is the test DoD uses to identify your reading and listening comprehension in the targeted language. The Russian test is currently version 5 of the DLPT, and this is important to note because it includes the added element of "critical thinking". This element has created a great deal of criticism from service members because many feel that the test should focus exclusively on language, and not discriminate scores based on other types of aptitude. I had the chance to recently speak with some DLI testers about this, and they recommended (first and foremost) to study the language, but to also study some "SAT" type prep material (the verbal portion) in order to overcome the problems associated with the "critical thinking" element. I currently work in an organization with FAOs, native speaking interpreters, and non-native interpreters. You'd think that the native speakers would crush the test, but that's not always the case. We've got a guy who was born and raised in Ukraine, and he consistently scores 2+/2+ (which is the same score I typically get - and I'm a non-native FAO). His Russian is about 1000% better than mine, but he's lacking in the "critical thinking" (for test purposes) dept., so his scores suffer. Like I said, there's lot of criticism of this version, but at the end of the day it's the test we've got to live with...

    Check the most recent MILPER messages about Foreign Language Proficiency Pay (FLPP), because most FLPP these days require you to be in a billet that requires the language - and Infantry PL probably won't require it! However, I'd advise you to get scores on your Officer Record Brief (ORB) anyway. You never know when they'll come in handy, and when the day comes for you to apply for FAO, then you'll already have demonstrated your apptitude.

    I'm a 48E, and I use Russian pretty often. Russian is still the lingua-franca throughout the territory of the former Soviet Union. so anytime I travel East I use it. The Army's minimum is 2/2/1+, but the goal is 3/3/2. I'm currently 2+/2+/2 (4 years out of DLI), so I've still got room for improvement.

    Good luck with your last semester... don't let up until it's over! For now keep focused on graduating and turning into a stellar Infantry Officer.
  • CPT David Laksoeky
    3/18/2013 6:27 AM
    I met your wife yesterday. I am also in 4BCT, 1CD. I inquired about her last name knowing that it was Brazilian. She informed me about your FAO situation. My wife, who is Paulista, and I are currently deciding on whether or not to stay in the Army or move to Brazil where she is currently living during the deployment. If I decide to stay in, I definitely want to go the FAO route. I speak Portuguese already and I'm trying to set myself up for the 48C AOC. Hopefully I don't score as well as you on the DLAB....haha. Tchau irmao.
  • CPT Carlos Da SIlva
    3/18/2013 9:35 PM

    Wow, what a small Army. You’re faced with a difficult decision on whether to stay or leave the Army. I found myself at the same decision point. FAO is definitely the way to go. I envy your opportunity to move to Brazil. Where in Brazil does your wife reside? One of my life goals is to retire in the Army and enjoy the fruits of my labor in Brazil. I really hoped for 48B AOC, since Brazil is my home country. However, I’m just glad that I was selected. In addition, I read in recent news that FAOs will be assigned a secondary AOC in near future. Good luck on the DLAB.

  • CPT David Lakoskey
    3/19/2013 9:01 AM
    My wife (and her family) live in Peruibe, SP which is just south of Santos. She's currently on vacation in Bahia so I'm quite jealous at the moment. Yes, we already know that we want to move to Brazil, but we just want to make sure that we will be financially stable in the U.S. before moving. I meant 48B as well. Yes, congratulations on your selection. Perhaps you will get that secondary AOC in Brazil. I assume you don't hold citizenship in BR any more?
  • CPT Hudson
    3/24/2013 4:31 PM

    Unfortunately, Russian is no longer on the FLPP list. You must, more or less, be in a MOS or MTOE slot that requires it (like FAO, 35P, etc..). Check ALARACT 031-2013 for more details. Korean and Chinese even got chopped off the list.

  • Stephen H. Franke
    3/25/2013 8:26 PM
    Greetings to all US Army FAOs (including their equivalents in our other Services).

    Just came across this interesting thread while I was researching a different subject. Bravo to the originator and those who have have responded and participated with their questions and comments.

    I am a now-retired FAO 48G (Middle East), primarily a "Gulfie", with adjacent projects or TDYs in or about Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Yemen, Iran and Sudan.

    Feel free to pick my brain and my library collection.

    I post items of likely interest to FAOs in FAOWeb, which is a very useful and energetic website for the benefit of the DOD's entire FAO community. Most items I post are about cross-cultural advising, foreign military training, local effectiveness, and insights on the styles and dynamics of decision-making by Arabic-prevalent counterparts (how they tend to execute their decision is another worthy topic). My "working L2 languages" are Arabic, Persian, Kurdish and Russian (although my speech in the latter three now has a strong Saudi/Gulf Arabic accent).

    Today is Monday, 25 March 2013.


    Stephen H. Franke
    LTC, FAO/SFA/SOF/MI/Attache
    USAR (Retired)
    San Pedro, CA (Los Angeles Harbor Area

    "FAOs Forward!"
  • John Pak
    4/10/2013 5:55 PM
    Sir, thank you for all the information and I am learning just as much from reading other peoples posts!

    I have a few questions that I am hoping you'd have some insight on. Have you ever heard of a Civil Affairs Officer going FAO and is this an uncommon occurrence? Right now I'm a 1LT in AV but have put in a packet for CA because that is what I have been extremely passionate about. I would suspect a career in CA would garner many valuable experiences in with working with different ppl groups and learning a new language that would help as a FAO. The only thing I am concerned about is commanders in CA are almost all majors and I am wondering if this would set me back in applying for FAO down the road since company command needs to be completed first.

    Also, do you have any insight with FAO's that also fly?

    Thank you for your time.
  • Matt
    4/12/2013 6:00 AM
    John, a few people have asked the question about transferring from another Functional Area into FAO, but unfortunately I don't know the answer to this. I suggest you approach the CA and/or FAO desk officer at HRC for the 100% correct answer. However, I'd be willing to bet that it's not allowed... Each branch has to train their own people (meaning that they have to pay for the training), so that branch is going to be reluctant to allow you to just walk away because you want to try something else. The branch is going to want a return on its investment, and that return is your continued service in the branch. I've never heard of anyone transferring from a basic branch, to a FA, and then into another FA. Sorry to disappoint...

    As for FAO flying jobs, there are a few, but only a very VERY few! FAO doesn't recruit aviators for these jobs, but just fills them when the stars line up. I don't know where all the jobs are, but I know there's one in Hungary, one in Ghana, and one in South America. I came into FAO out of AV, and I'm hoping for the job in Hungary, but it's really unlikely that my timeline and the timeline for that one job will line up perfectly. We'll see... When you transfer, you need to mentally put aside flying (for the government anyway) and jump headfirst into the Functional Area. So, do some soul-searching to see if you're really ready to be done with Aviation (remembering that AV MAJs mostly sit in offices with big windows overlooking the airfield while working insanely long hours at their computers).

    Good luck!
  • CPT Hudson
    4/12/2013 11:40 AM
    John, good news. If you look through the 1QFY13 VTIP results PDF document (located at ) you will notice that several Special Forces officers (6 CPTs and 2 MAJs, I believe) received transfer into various branches, FA 48 being the majority. You will also notice that one Psyops (PO) CPT also transfered over to FA 48. So, it is possible to go into these other branches (from your basic branch) and then transfer out to another, but I would certainly still talk to the CA and FAO proponent helpdesks.
    4/12/2013 12:26 PM
    Signing off this site for the time being, however, Matt, thank you for allowing me to join and post on this forum, and please continue doing all the great work you're doing here. V/R, До свиданя,.David.
  • CPT Hudson
    4/15/2013 9:06 AM

    Another good tool to find out which branch/FA is authorizing IN/OUT transfers in a particular VTIP is the FY IN/OUT Chart. The most recent one, 3QTR FY13 IN/OUT Chart, is located at the same link in my previous post. Notice though that Civil Affairs (CA) was not allowing anyone out during that VTIP.
  • Stephen H. Franke
    4/17/2013 5:34 PM
    Greetings again to ALCON in this useful and valuable thread.

    If I may contribute some long-range advice to the current and "next-up" generations of FAOs about some types of FAO-related assignments in the future.

    With DOD and our Army's growing focus on international security cooperation (ISC), FAOs might also consider assignments -- when they are mid- to senior-level MAJs -- to assignments in security cooperation / security assistance billets, including alternating branch-specific tours as advisors / trainers with foreign military counterparts for those FAOs pursuing dual-track career paths.

    Examples which come to mind (here admitting my bent as a long-time 48G "Gulfie") are tours for designated & dual-tracking 48Gs as (BRANCH) advisor to the OPM Saudi Arabian National Guard (OPM SANG) or US Military Training Mission (USMTM) to Saudi Arabia, among several other DOD- or DA-sourced OPMs in the kingdom. Ditto for other DOD-sourced Security Cooperation Organizations (SCO)(although some of those SCOs are known are under different names, per request and preference of the respective host country government) operating elsewhere in the CENTCOM and AFRICOM AORs. Those "working-level" tours are excellent, if not unique, opportunities to reinforce and polish a FAO's language, regional, cultural, and operational skills, after and beyond IRT.

    ISC, aka "Security Force Assistance, or SFA), will be clearly a "growth industry" (for lack of a more-elegant descriptor) for DOD, especially suitable for FAOs who can be Country Desk Officers or Regional Desk Officers to DOD, DA/ARSTAF, and COCOMs involved with Theater Security Cooperation Programs (TSCP), Foreign Military Sales (FMS), and similar bilateral interactions.

    DA authorities for the FAO population might consider the long-term benefits of sending more, if not all, FAOs during their initial qualification phase through [1] DISAM to gain a detailed knowledge of the ISC field and/or Army Force Modernization Course (FA 54). Reason is that many Middle Eastern military and paramilitary organizations are undergoing profound modernization or transformation of their force structures. Those change-processes include the training, assessment, development, and integration of host nationals into those military staffs and units, along with rethinking and redefinition of their bodies of national military doctrine.

    Hope this helps. Today is Wednesday, 17 April 2013.


    Stephen H. Franke
    LTC, FAO/SFA/SOF/MI/Attache
    USAR (Retired)
    San Pedro, California (Los Angeles Harbor Area)

    "FAOs Forward!"

  • Christin M
    4/22/2013 11:29 AM

    My long term career objective is to be an FAO.

    I plan on taking the steps now in the start of my Army career to help my chances of getting a shot later.

    My question is, as I know part of the FAO program is extended schooling, which Masters degree would you best see suitable for this field?

    My interest and speculation for a Masters Degree is Foreign Relations and International Affairs.

    Is there a different choice that is more appropriate?

    Thank you
  • Dave Marone
    4/23/2013 5:21 PM
    FAOs are regional specialists; so a degree with a region or set of countries is more appropriate. E.g. Russian Studies, Middle East Affairs. Usually, the foreign relations and international affairs areas are sub-specialties of Political Science. FAO would probably accept them, but you're better off with a regional focus if you can swing it. If you go through FAO funded ACS, you won't really have a choice; they will only approve regional degrees for the most part.
  • Christin M
    4/24/2013 1:25 PM
    Thank you sir!

    Question: what is ACS funded FAO? I've looked online and only found Army Career Satisfaction and thinking that is not the ACS you are referring to?

    I'd like to have an education regarding general foreign policy in order to be prepared to go to any country, on any assignment, but you bring up a good point. I'll look into a program that offers a focus in Middle Eastern regional studies?

    Thank you for your input!
  • Dave Marone
    4/24/2013 4:06 PM
    FAO funded Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS) is one of the training components required to become a FAO. Some folks already have MA degrees in Pol Science, International Relations etc. before accessions and those are generally accepted, but if you are accepted into FAO and don't have a degree, FAO branch will send you to ACS after your in region training. General foreign policy/IR/comparative politics will almost always be a component of any regional studies degree program. If you are trying to be competitive for accessions having a language or degree is always a plus
  • Christin M
    4/25/2013 9:38 AM
    Roger, that makes sense. I see there were previous discussions regarding Civil Affairs and eventually making the move into applying for FAO, this is my intent as well. If I make CA, I'd shoot for Arabic language training, coupled with an advanced degree would hopefully make my packet competitive. Lots to learn and accomplish. Thank you sir for your time and response to my questions!
  • Dave Marone
    4/25/2013 11:50 AM

    I would not recommend using CA as an avenue to becoming a FAO. CA is often short meaning that when the time arrives to put in your VTIP for FAO training, there is a reasonable chance CA won't release you. I'm not sure where you are in your career timleine, but CA and FAO both require significant training commitments which translates to the functional area wanting full return on its investment in you. If FAO is your endstate, focus on doing well in your basic branch, take the DLAB if you haven't already, apply as early as possible and make that your goal. This will put you in a good position to maximize your FAO training opportunities and assignments. You can email me at if you have other questions.
    MAJ Dave Marone, 48G.
  • Matt
    4/29/2013 3:34 AM
    Christin, Everything Dave has said is 100% accurate, and I couldn't have said it better myself (thanks, Dave!).

    Sorry for the delay in responding... I've been out protecting the world from evil. I love this job!!
  • Christin M
    4/29/2013 9:03 AM
    Thank you sir,

    I appreciate the direction and have been thinking about how to proceed as a result.

    FAO forward!
  • CPT Hudson
    5/1/2013 11:32 AM

    You don't necessarily have to wait until you get the opportunity to go to the Defense Language Institute (DLI) or other language centers to start learning/becoming proficient in Arabic (or any language for that matter). There are great resources available on the internet, many of them free, such as the Joint Language University and Global Language Online Support System (google both and you will find their web addresses). I personally enjoy using the Assimil program (a popular language learning resource in Europe. French founded). Their product on Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is as follows: If you do decide to go with them, definately get both the CDs and the book together. Once you have a good foundation in Arabic, I would then stress authentic materials (books, movies, radios, news, etc.) that someone would find within an Arabic speaking country (note: The Egyptian dialect may be a good one to go with, considering it is very well dispersed among the Arab world. Or so I have read, considering they dub and produce movies there in Arabic). Also, and are two great websites devoted to language learning (techniques, different approaches, etc.) from two guys that can speak over 10 languages (from Spanish to Russian to Chinese). The popular montra that people need to be young or in a classroom to learn a language, well, is a myth. It simply requires good time management, good resources, motivation, and consistancy (a little everyday).
  • Carlos
    5/1/2013 2:19 PM
    I have a two-part question regarding FAO evaluations. First, how are FAOs being evaluated? In greater detail, what makes a great or not so great FAO OER? Second, can previous OERs (prior to FAO training) have a positive/negative impact on future promotion? Or does the clock reset once selected to become a FAO? Any feedback is always appreciated.
  • Christin M
    5/2/2013 9:39 AM
    Thankyou sir!

    I was just looking into what the Army had to offer with training to learn a foreign language, or what methods I should pursue to learn that language, so I'll take a look.

    Thanks for the time and resources!
  • Matt
    5/3/2013 4:32 AM
    Carlos, For your first question, FAOs are evaluated just like any other officer in the Army. FAO jobs all exist inside the structure of some organization that has defined goals and objectives (for example, think of a staff job at EUCOM). You'll always have a boss, and that boss will always have some expectations for your performance. Therefore, your evaluation will depend largely on your ability to fulfill that expectation (just like for any other officer in the force structure) + the standard institutional elements (like loyalty, good communication skills, sound decision making, etc...). HRC frequently makes the point that a good OER is one that enumerates your performance vs. your peers; addresses your potential for promotion/schools/greater responsibility; is "left justified" (ie.. all "Yes" for the leader attributes portion); etc… What I’m getting at here is that promotion boards are looking for pretty much the same thing from FAOs as they are from the rest of the Army.

    It’s extremely unlikely that you’re going to be a commander as a FAO, so if your question concerns the most beneficial job to have, the answer is that there is no “most” beneficial job. HRC stresses the point that the manner in which you perform your job is much more important than which job you have.

    Finally, no, you don’t get a clean slate when you transfer over to FAO. ALL of your unmasked OERs will go into your promotion board file. Although I suppose it’s possible that good OERs from your CPT years could help you get promoted to LTC, but my guess is that OERs from the distant past are going to be only neutral at best. Really nasty blemishes from the past will never go away entirely.
  • Carlos
    5/3/2013 9:03 AM
    Sir, I appreciate your insightful feedback.

    Thank you

  • CPT Parrish
    6/3/2013 12:32 AM
    Phenomenal article with substantial insight. I remember first reading this in 2012 and thinking to myself that I didn't have a hope in hell. Lo and behold, I was just accepted into the program as a 48C. My DLAB was 133 so I thought I might get Chinese but who is going to turn done Europe. I can think of nothing else but becoming a Foreign Area Officer which is a dream come true. I would encourage anyone to try out for it because I am nothing special, just determined.
  • Ash
    6/25/2013 3:55 PM
    Can some knowledgeable person spell out the changes regarding ALARACT 031/2013 or provide a link?
  • CPT Hudson
    6/25/2013 4:06 PM
    Ash, I can send you a pdf document of the ALARACT if you would like (via email). I dont remember the url. I think I was fed up with one of the .mil websites, so I just googled it until I found a link that worked.
  • Ash
    6/25/2013 4:10 PM
    Thank you CPT Hudson. Try this: kayumochi AT gmail DOT com
  • James Tippets
    7/30/2013 9:00 PM
    I am currently a junior AR CPT and I, like many others, was wondering what I can be doing now to improve my chances of getting picked up in a couple years for FA48. I lived in Russia for three years, its on my ORB at 2+, and I did the DLAB but are there any duty positions that I should try for? I'm considering taking a TRADOC company command in order to KD sooner, however, I don't know if that would make me less competitive than if I had commanded a line company.
    I realize that no matter what I do, I need to get good OERs but I was just wondering if there was anything else.
    Thanks for your help and this very helpful blog.
    James Tippets
  • Gerry
    8/6/2013 5:43 PM
    James Tippets,

    I've put a few tips below, however, as always, your mileage may vary. It's hard to know what boards look at or what distinguishes one candidate from another:

    1. First and foremost, meet or exceed the requirements, for entry into the FAO program; make sure your ORB's updated, your OPMF is complete, all HT/WT and APFT are stellar, you're green across the board medically, no profiles, etc.

    2. Make sure your clearance is up to date and you have a clean profile; resolve any issues promptly.

    3. Try to distinguish yourself by improving your language capabilities. Congrats on 2+, now go back and study and get that 3/3 (max on lower range test). Once you have that, try for higher - the highest you can get is 5/5 (upper range test). If you want a mark of distinguishment, 4/4 is like getting 300+ on the APFT. You can take the upper range test any time within 6 months after scoring 3/3.

    4. OERs - make sure your rater and senior rater indicate that you are FA 48 material, and would make a great FAO and attache, etc. Talk to a FAO and see their pre-FAO OERs for examples.

    5. Get the highest DLAB you can. You can retake it every 6 months. You need 110+ to go to DLI for the Category 4 languages (Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Korean, etc). High score indicates aptitude for difficult languages (read: strategic).

    6. Consider getting your MA in a FAO relevant field before you apply. Money's tight and some FAOs have been diverted or delayed from advanced civil schooling. If you already have your MA, you're ahead of the pack. Given that some CPTs and most MAJs have a MA, you might actually be behind the pack if you don't have an MA when you apply. That said, if you're holding out for ACS, you might have to adjust your calculus.

    7. Stay current in political-military affairs. Read the NY Times, Economist, and a relevant foreign language newspaper. Read Dept of State websites for the region you're interested in, etc.

    8. Seek out FAOs in person and learn from their experiences.

    If you have further questions, or want to email a Russian speaking FAO for more specific questions, email me at gd at jhu dot edu
  • Jean-Luc LeClair
    8/7/2013 1:18 AM
    I am currently a freshman ROTC cadet at UCSD. I know very little about possible career paths and army MOS' even though I have done some research. I would love to get in contact with an officer who could offer me some advice because I have not been able to find answers to many of my questions. As far as I know, I am very interested in finance and this FAO program. If anyone is willing to start a small email correspondence with me it would be much appreciated. Thanks for your time.
  • Gerard
    8/7/2013 2:12 AM
    Jean-Luc. Congratulations on thinking ahead. I suggest you start first with the Army Officer Guide, then locally with your ROTC unit and learn the different branches of your cadre. Reach out to some recent ROTC grads from your school as well. Also, look uo DA PAM 600-3, Commissioned Officer Professional Development and Career; it has charts and descriptions of all the career fields. Once you've read in there about the branches and areas you're interested in, you'll be able to ask better questions and get better advice from officers in the field. You can find DA PAM 600-3 here:‎ If you have further questions, email me, gd at jhu dot edu
  • Steve
    8/7/2013 1:09 PM
    Thank you all for such and active and informative discussion.

    I am a YG 2008 CPT and am very interested in the FAO program when it becomes available. I believe I am well qualified with a good undergraduate GPA, good GRE scores, and ACOM OERs. My DLAB scores is a 129. With that DLAB score, is it a wasted choice to put Europe or South America in my AOC preferences? I understand that both areas are highly sought after and usually go to candidates with lower DLAB scores. Would I be better to state the preferences of the regions that I am more likely to get such as China, East Asia, and Middle East? Thanks for your help.
  • Stephen H. Franke, LTC, FAO (FA 48G)
    8/7/2013 1:17 PM
    Greetings to all in this always-interesting thread.

    If I may add to Gerry's good tips (posted above) ref authorized methods for testing & rating & reporting (via DA Form 330) of one's fluency in a foreign language (FL):

    [1] The DLPT is **not** the only nor prerequisite method for conducting an assessment, testing, rating and resultant reporting of a person's (here referring to members of the US Army in whatever component or status) FL proficiency.

    [2] Check the pertinent portion of AR 611-6 for details of the other authorized methods. Some of those methods apply particularly, or yield more-accurate results than a DLPT, to a person who has acquired proficiency in a FL by other than resident FL training at DLIFLC (i.e. home environment, university study, commercial language school, extensive overseas residence / employment, etc.).

    Glad to provide details of a case which involved well-intentioned mis-testing via DLPT of a native-born multilingual US Army Reserve Soldier to determine his eligibility for authorization and payment of Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus (FLPB, former FLPP) incidental to his voluntary mobilization to support an Army OCONUS mission. His complaint to his local IG resulted in an investigation and finding that his servicing TCO should have scheduled him for administration of a telephonic oral proficiency interview (OPI) by DLIFLC-based testers/teachers. The enlightened TCO did that, and based on the OPI, the Soldier received ILR rating of 5/5 in one Middle Eastern FL and ILR 4/4 ratings in several dialects of Arabic.

    Hope this helps.

    Regards to all current and future FAOs.


    Stephen H. Franke
    LTC, FAO/SFA/SOF/MI/Attache
    (FAO 48G "Gulfie")
    USAR (Retired)
    San Pedro, CA (Los Angeles Harbor Area

    "FAOs Forward!"
  • Cuyahoga
    8/9/2013 3:20 AM
    Question for the general community.

    I've seen talk of "ROTC Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Scholarships" at the following webpage, under the Scholarships and Incentives section.

    Just wondering if anyone was familiar with these scholarships.
  • CPT Hudson
    8/12/2013 12:33 PM
    I would imagine it is just a catchy name the school has given to the scholarship. The MILPER messages make it very clear that you need to be at least a mid-senior CPT in order to apply. The experience from your previous branch is vital so as to renforce your newly acquired skills as a SR CPT/MAJ FAO.

    "Cadets who are accepted into the Advanced Track may apply for ROTC Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Scholarships. If already on an ROTC scholarship, the scholarship will be converted to a FAO Scholarship. "

    Also, keep in mind that some of their data is out of date: The most recent ALARACT took Chinese off of the critical language list (FLPP). Meaning that only jobs that require knowledge of Chinese will get bonus pay for it (pending a passing DLPT, of course).

    "Cadets who commission may apply for monthly foreign language proficiency pay for being fluent in Chinese. The monthly pay ranges from $200-$400 per month based on level of fluency."
  • CPT Hudson
    8/12/2013 12:39 PM
    Below is the information that I found on what appears to be the scholarship that you cited above:

    "If you're interested in getting your bachelor's degree in Chinese or Arabic, apply for an Army ROTC Language Scholarship after you join the Corps of Cadets, start attending the University of North Georgia, and declare Chinese or Arabic as your major. The scholarship pays the same as any other Army ROTC Scholarship: tuition and fees, or room and meals, plus $1,200/year for books, and a monthly stipend of $350/month to $500/month. Cadets taking critical language courses can earn up to $3,000/school year in Critical Language Incentive Pay.  You agree to serve four years in the Regular Army as an officer after graduating from North Georgia.Note: For Georgia residents who are eligible for the HOPE Scholarship, the Army ROTC Language Scholarship is used to pay for room and meals. Georgia residents on the Army ROTC Language Scholarship will receive up to $1,500 in grants from the State of Georgia at the end of each semester. Apply for the scholarship through the Recruiting Operations Officer at the University of North Georgia"
  • CPT Hudson
    8/29/2013 7:48 AM

    It is certainly not a wasted choice to put Europe or South America in as your AOC preferences on the FAO questionnaire. If you look at a previous post, above your own, you will see that a CPT Parrish stated he was accepted into FAO as a 48C (Europe) and his DLAB score was 133. Another thing to take into consideration is that a majority of the languages listed for Europe fall into the category 3 level (7 vs. 4) and in reality only two regions exclusively require level 4 languages (China and North Asia). The fact of the matter is, though, it will highly depend on other factors, such as remaining quotas within your YG to include the background of the applicants (previous DLPTs, travel, degrees, etc.) and finally, preference.

    So, still put your preferences as you would like them, just be sure to back it up with solid reasoning, but as others have stated previously, be open to all regions.

  • Gerry
    8/29/2013 7:53 AM
    If at first you don't succeed in getting into FAO, apply again. You never know where/when the shortages will open up.

    Also, if you're in the Reserve or Guard, or are considering the Reserve or Guard, the Army has a Reserve FAO and a Reserve Attache program as well. You can find them at AR 611-60 Attache Program; AR 135-11 Reserve FAO Program
  • James
    8/29/2013 5:17 PM
    I read through the regs above about Reserve Component FAO and I wanted to see if anyone here has gone RC-to-AC or AC-to-RC when switching from their basic branch to FAO. The application for AC FAO lists "Call to Active Duty" alongside VTIP and the other options, but I wasn't sure if that was for reservists or simply AC officers with a break in service.

    I'd like to work in an embassy overseas (which I can through my civilian job, but you can't live overseas while in the ARNG). I'm deciding between (1) applying for AC FAO (2) applying for RC FAO and taking a civilian position overseas or (3) resigning from the Guard IOT take the overseas civilian position. Do RC FAOs have overseas positions compatible with USG civilian embassy positions? Does an AC FAO packet lose strength if your ACOM OERs in a KD position were in a part-time ARNG status? I'm currently a YG09 CPT with CCC complete, an MA and 2+/2 in Persian and a 3/3 in French. I'm open to any AOC, but Option #2 above would require that the RC FAO job be in the same country as the USG civilian job (which is Mideast-focused). Thanks for your help!
  • Chris
    10/23/2013 12:03 AM

    I have read through all of the previous discussions here and wanted some insight on my specific situation.

    Currently, I am a new LT branch detailed to FA and for CCC I will switch to MI. I have been interested in the FAO thing for some years and have been thinking about how I may best put myself in the best position to be selected when that time eventually comes.

    Currently, I have undergrad degrees in International Studies and German language, which I plan to certify through DLI in. Now, at some point I plan on taking classes for one MA degree and also begin self-learning another language if that can work. I also have a GRADSO, which means for committing extra years, the Army will pay for Grad school anyways. I would like to know, since part of the considerations for becoming an FAO have to do with money, if I have strong proficiency in a foreign language and already have an agreement to go to Grad school anyways, as long as I meet the other requirements( ie TS clearance, the questionaire, and the DLAB, etc.) would it seem like I will be a decent position to get selected? Obviously, I'll be focusing more on my work as a LT, but in my down time I like to try to plan ahead for my future and that's a basic run-down of my plan so far.

    Any input would be appreciated and thanks for taking the time to provide so much useful info, Gentlemen!

  • Cristian Radulescu
    11/6/2013 2:32 AM
    Is there a FAO I can meet and speak with face to face? I am PCSing to Ft. Lee VA in two weeks to attend CLC3, and will be there Nov-May '14. I am very interested in becoming a FAO, scored a 3-3 on Romanian, am a native speaker, worked with them during OEF12, and have ACOM OERS and a M.A. in Logistics as I am a Logistics officer. I would like to learn another language, and serve in any AOC, but feel I have valuable insights and understanding in the Romanian culture and people. My wife and two young sons would not have problem adjusting to any place really, but my wife is Romanian-born as well.

    What is the next step for me? Take the Aptitude Battery Tests and GRE and apply post-command? Wait for the 7th year board, mentioned on here, or try to VTIP right away? Maybe I can start learning another language or apply to ACS?

    The only deal-breaker for me as it seems is for everybody, is being stationed in areas that your family is forbidden to go. Otherwise, I am willing to go anywhere in the world.
  • Merrill Walker
    11/6/2013 4:56 AM
    The VTIP is the only way to become a FAO now. The FA board during your 7th year doesn't excess anymore. Apply through the VTIP as soon as possible and you will go into the training pipeline after you have taken command. Seeing as your wife is from Romania, the chances of you ever being assigned there are very low. As a rule FAO branch doesn't station you in countries where you or your spouse is born. Taking the test and GRE are always a good thing, one less thing to do. With almost ever AOC there are a few places that are dependant restricted, that is just the way it goes.
  • Gerry
    11/6/2013 4:53 PM
    Cristian -- Merrill's right. VTIP's the way to go. Also, don't give up hope on getting assigned. It helps if your wife is a naturalized US citizen. I've been assigned in my wife's country before, so it is possible, just not probable. And, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. Caveat: make sure they're well aimed shots, because people fire back!
  • Cristian Radulescu
    11/6/2013 5:57 PM
    Thank you Gerry, Merrill. My wife is a naturalized citizen, and while I understand the conflict of interests, I consider my self American, of Romanian ethnicity - I would be able to probably help more in that country than anywhere else, but my main passion is being a FAO, not necessarily a 48C; I am willing to go anywhere and serve in any AOC, but am hoping to be able to take my family with me. Its one thing to go TDY at times, another to spend years away from family.

    I am going to try and study another language and make myself an obvious candidate for an AOC, maybe try for Mandarin, Arabic, or Russian. I think Portuguese and Italian are languages most similar to Romanian. When I get to Ft. Lee, I will look for a FAO to speak with, face to face.
  • CPT Hudson
    1/12/2014 8:01 AM
    I have noticed some people, to include myself a few months prior, are under the impression that someone can retake the DLAB as many times as possible (within a 6 month timeframe). In doing some research I have found this to not be the case, which initiated due to paperwork that I had to sign at my installation's education center IOT take the DLAB. Below is an excerpt from AR 11-6, The Army Foreign Language Program:

    B score.
    3–5. Approval for Defense Language Aptitude Battery reevaluation
    a. Personnel may be reevaluated on the DLAB up to two times after a 6 month waiting period each time, if they have not achieved the minimum qualifying score on the initial test or first retest.
    b. Requests for more than two retests. Requests for exceptions to the waiting period, and requests to retest after attaining the minimum score or higher, should be sent to Commander, AHRC (AHRC–PDE), 200 Stovall Street, Alexandria, VA 22332–0472.
  • Stephen H. Franke
    1/12/2014 9:00 PM
    SUBJECT: DLPT Testing

    FROM: Stephen H. Franke, LTC, FAO (FA 48G)

    Greetings to all in this always-interesting thread.

    Without wishing to flog a moribund horse, I would like to add to CPT Hudson's post (above) ref authorized (per AR 611-6) methods for testing & rating & reporting (via DA Form 330) of a FAO's fluency in a foreign language (FL):

    [1] The DLPT is **not** the only nor prerequisite method for conducting an assessment, testing, rating and resultant reporting of a person's (here referring to members of the US Army in whatever component or status) FL proficiency.

    If a FAO is a heritage learner or otherwise acquired some proficiency in a FL, a more-valid and accurate method for testing, assessing, and rating that proficiency (plus providing the basis for completion of a required DA Form 330) is a telephonic oral proficiency interview (OPI). That OPI must be requested through, and then scheduled and administered by, the designated Test Control Officer (TCO) in the Education Services Center on nearest DOD installation.

    [2] Check the pertinent portion of AR 611-6 for details of the other authorized methods. Some of those methods apply particularly, or yield more-accurate results than a DLPT, to a person who has acquired proficiency in a FL by other-than-resident FL training at DLIFLC (i.e. home environment, university study, commercial language school, extensive overseas residence / employment, etc.).

    Glad to provide details of a case which involved well-intentioned mis-testing via DLPT of a native-born multilingual US Army Reserve Soldier to determine his eligibility for authorization and payment of Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus (FLPB, former FLPP) incidental to his voluntary mobilization to support an Army OCONUS mission. His complaint to his local IG resulted in an investigation and finding that his servicing TCO should have scheduled him for administration of a telephonic oral proficiency interview (OPI) by DLIFLC-based testers/teachers. The enlightened TCO did that, and based on the OPI, the Soldier received ILR rating of 5/5 in one Middle Eastern FL and ILR 4/4 ratings in several dialects of Arabic.

    Hope this helps. Today is Sunday, 12 January 2014.

    Any 48Gs and others interested in open-source materials about the Arabic language -- including MSA and Local Dialect Arabics (LDA), plus "operational cultures" (here borrowing an apt term used by the USMC) -- is welcome to query me at [ shfranke [at] hotmail [dot] com ].

    Regards to all current and future FAOs of all Services.


    Stephen H. Franke
    LTC, FAO/SFA/SOF/MI/Attache
    (FAO 48G "Gulfie," Yemen-watcher, and
    SME/lead trainer of teams of USMC advisors &
    trainers outbound to the CENTCOM AOR)
    US Army Retired
    San Pedro (Los Angeles Waterfront Area), California

    "FAOs Forward!"
  • Julian French
    1/24/2014 6:28 PM

    This is very good insight. Thank you to everyone.

    I'll get straight to the point. I'm 28, graduated with a degree in Italian. I speak Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and French, with my levels of skill in the order the languages are listed. I have not yet joined the Army, but I've been seeing a recruiter and was wanting to enter as an officer. I have a friend who is a LtCol and he tells me to go in as an officer- and pretty much anyone else I talk to.

    If I wanted to make my long term goal a FAO, what would you all suggest I try to shoot for as my initial MOS, taking into consideration how "easy" it would be for the branch to let me go in regards to how needed I am, which branch has overflow, therefore being easy to transfer out of, etc.

    Thank you for your consideration!
  • Stephen H. Franke
    1/24/2014 7:24 PM
    Greetings to all.

    Ref the earlier inquiry posted by James, above (extract pasted for reference between the dashed lines below):


    8/29/2013 5:17 PM
    I read through the regs above about Reserve Component FAO, and I wanted to see if anyone here has gone RC-to-AC or AC-to-RC when switching from their basic branch to FAO. The application for AC FAO lists "Call to Active Duty" alongside VTIP and the other options, but I wasn't sure if that was for reservists or simply AC officers with a break in service.

    I'd like to work in an embassy overseas (which I can through my civilian job, but you can't live overseas while in the ARNG). I'm deciding between (1) applying for AC FAO (2) applying for RC FAO and taking a civilian position overseas or (3) resigning from the Guard IOT take the overseas civilian position. Do RC FAOs have overseas positions compatible with USG civilian embassy positions? --- (rest deleted)


    If you convert from ARNG to USAR and become a RC FAO, there are two main fields of FAO-related opportunities for combining overseas residence and performing military tours:

    [1] Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA/DH - Defense Attache System. RC FAOs are usually assigned to the DAO in the US Embassy in Country (X) as Assistant Army Attache (AARMA).

    While those are IMA billets, you can also get short-term active duty tours and be requested / borrowed / "loaned out" to other requesting (and paying for the tour) commands. For examples, I supported CENTCOM and later ARCENT during two BRIGHT STAR JCETs in Egypt and Sudan, and was detailed in Fall of 1991 TDY to UN Special Commission on Iraq -- aka UNSCOM -- with duty as arms control compliance inspector /linguist during UNSCOM 16 team's inspections of declared facilities for Saddam's clandestine nuclear weapons R&D program in the Baghdad metro area).

    [2] International Security Cooperation (hereinafter ISC) / Security Assistance billets in most GCC, DSCA, and the US Army Security Assistance Command (USASAC). As I mentioned in an earlier post in this thread, ISC is emerging as "growth industry" where FAOs are concerned, needed, and preferred, especially to advise, coordinate and otherwise support DOD and DA et al on high-value Foreign Military Sales (FMS) sales cases.

    Hope this helps. Today is Friday, 24 January 2014.
    Regards to all current and future FAOs, of all Services, including the USMC's unique new population NCOs designated and serving as FA Staff NCOS (FAS in "Marine-speak")(Big Army and HRC should make a similar smart move, IMPO).


    Stephen H. Franke
    LTC, FAO/SFA/SOF/MI/Attache
    (FAO 48G "Gulfie," Yemen-watcher, and
    SME/lead trainer of teams of USMC advisors &
    trainers outbound to the CENTCOM AOR)
    US Army Retired
    San Pedro (Los Angeles Waterfront Area), California
    shfranke [at] hotmail [dot] com

    "FAOs Forward!"
  • Michael
    1/28/2014 4:25 PM
    Hello,This was a great article. I am an intelligence officer in the navy and am looking into an inter service transfer. Would you mind answering some questions for me via email? Thanks a lot!/rMichael
  • Jeanette Chavez
    2/26/2014 8:05 PM
    I came across this blog a few years back and it remains the best source of info on FAOs. My goal is to drop a packet after I get my KD time (I'm currently a CPT with 5 years in). I'm wondering if the DLAB score of 95 is waiverable? I've taken it twice and scored 91 both times so I only have one more shot at this. Do they even take other factors into consideration? I'm a 3/3 in spanish, already have a t/s, and a masters degree in international relations so I feel like I'm on the right track but I'm afraid that the DLAB score will kill my dreams.
  • Gerry
    2/26/2014 9:21 PM

    The DLAB score is waiverable to 95 if you have a 2/2 DLPT score. See the FAO guide section on Army Standards: "Officers must have a minimum DLAB score of 105, which can only be waived to 95 if they score a 2/2 on the DLPT."

    Introduction to FAO Program

    You can confirm by checking the current DA PAM 600-3 chapter on the FAO functional area requirements.

    If you want to improve your score and try for a harder strategic language (110 or above, such as Arabic, Russian, Chinese, or Korean), a google search on "study for DLAB" reveals some practical study tips. Improvement is possible: a SGT in my unit improved his score with self study from 75 to 140:

  • Gerry
    2/26/2014 11:13 PM
    Response to Julian French, posted 24 Jan 2014 at 1828.


    Good luck with your application to join the military. I want to thank you for considering to volunteer to serve with the Army because our nation needs talented new leaders every generation.

    Your question: "If I wanted to make my long term goal a FAO, what would you all suggest I try to shoot for as my initial MOS, taking into consideration how "easy" it would be for the branch to let me go in regards to how needed I am, which branch has overflow, therefore being easy to transfer out of, etc."

    Here are some of my personal thoughts on your potential enlistment and entrance to Officer Candidate School (OCS) or direct commission. I'm going to tackle this backwards, by first talking about officer considerations, because there is no direct link between what your enlisted military occupational specialty (MOS) will be and what your officer branch will be if you make it through OCS.

    Let me begin with the words of a British colonel I worked for in Djibouti. When asked about what is important about serving in the military, he replied (paraphrasing other famous leaders): "Remember your roots, march to the sound of gunfire, and delegate to the limits of competence." Working in the most challenging career fields in the front lines gives you a "foundational experience" par excellence. As with youth, the older you get, the harder it becomes to do the challenging stuff, so do it while you can. The same applies in the Army - it's harder to be on the small teams with the troops as you rise through the ranks.

    A quick caveat - there is no way to predict today, which officer branches and functional areas will be overstrength 8 years down the road, and if anyone tells you otherwise, I'd be cautious. The Army is going through a drawdown and re-adjustment, which means there will be year to year fluctuations. More below.


    First, I'm glad to see you're looking at this with a long term perspective, because it will take dedication and commitment to reach your goal of becoming a FAO. That said, I think you should continue to think about why you want to serve, what it means to you, and what sacrifices you're willing to make. Becoming a soldier or an officer is not a decision to be taken lightly, and there are many benefits as well as personal hardships involved with both types of service. Continue to talk to current and former members of the military - enlisted, officers, and civilians -- and get their perspectives.

    Second, if you go through OCS, you may not have much of a choice on which branch you are assigned, due to the needs of the Army, which fluctuate based on mission, funding, and operational environment. You can increase your chances of getting one of your choices by doing well in OCS, maxing your physical fitness, getting good grades, working well with others. Not getting your first (or any) choice of branch is often a hard situation for new officers to accept, but if you are focused on the long term, and look at each branch as an opportunity to learn about The Army, you will succeed regardless of your branch.

    Third, it is immaterial to the FAO program what your basic branch is, provided you meet the minimum requirements of the FAO program, and you should strive to be the best in whatever branch you are assigned. Outside of troop leading positions, all officers are generalists, and serve on staffs as "staff officers" akin to corporate middle management, e.g. "flying the desk". In a given 20 year career, you might only spend 4 years in command (Company command, Battalion Command), if you are talented and selected to command. The other 16 years are in staff positions. To put it colloquially, if you're handed a broom, be the best sweeper you can. This is another shock to new officers, as most recruiting material focuses (rightly, in my opinion) on the leadership aspects of officership. Set your expectations accordingly.

    Fourth, as a FAO and potential defense attaché, you will be in positions where you will be representing "The Army" writ large, including the Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff of the Army, to our overseas partners and governments. It is imperative before you become a FAO that you learn as much as you can about how The Army operates and the institutions that support it, as your success as a FAO is directly related to your application of this knowledge and understanding and the relationships between them. See AR 611-60 for info on Defense Attache System, and DA PAM 600-3 chapter 28 Foreign Area Officer (Functional Area 48).

    Given all of these considerations, it may be more beneficial to gain insight into how the Army fights and wins wars for the nation, and to serve on the front lines, at the pointy tip of the spear, so to speak, in the Maneuver, Fires, and Effects career field (MFE) branches before you apply to FAO. MFE career fields include infantry, armor, artillery, special operations (special forces, civil affairs, psychological operations) among other branches. That said, consideration #3 applies - all branches are equal as long as you're performing well.

    Note on being released by your branch to the FAO program: The added benefit of being in a MFE accessions branch (IN, AR, FA, etc) is that they are "feeder" branches, and are used to giving up officers to specialty programs because they have a rank structure that looks like a pyramid, lots of company grade officers (2LT/1LT/CPT), fewer field grade officers (MAJ/LTC/COL). If you end up in a "branch detail" type of arrangement (2 years infantry, then transfer to military intelligence, or logistics for example), you may have a harder time getting out of the branch later on. Branches like this can be really tricky to leave because they have inverse pyramid rank structure, and need more field grade officers than company grade officers.

    Finally, there is no "easy" path to FAO. If there were, it wouldn't be such a challenging and rewarding functional area. TANSTAAFL - there ain't no such thing as a free lunch ...

    -- See next post. Cut off due to posting lengh

    So, what MOS would be best if your long term goal is to become a FAO?

    First off, you need to get cracking. In order to be eligible for OCS, you need to enter before your 30th birthday, meaning you have less than two years. The "training pipeline" and the enlistment process can be lengthy, so I'd start talking to recruiters, take the medical and entrance exams as soon as possible. See here for the recruiter details for OCS- Here's a good reference on OCS and the process with more detailed tips and recommendations (not official Army site).

    Second, to become an officer, as with the discussion above, any MOS will get you there, as long as you're a team player, adaptable, and willing to sacrifice and deal with the hardships. Since your intent is to go to OCS, you may not spend much time in your MOS, but it could provide you more information about the Army.

    Third, you may not have much of a choice over your MOS, given the needs of the Army. See the caveat at the beginning.

    Given, that you want to maximize your chances, you may want to consider an MOS that will challenge you and give you perspective into the operational aspects of the army, e.g. infantry, armor, field artillery, etc. Make the most out of what you are given, and you will succeed.

  • Nathan
    3/24/2014 1:11 AM
    First off thank you for this blog and thank you to all of the people answering questions in the commentary. This has been the most informative source on the FAO program i have been able to find.

    On to my question. I saw in a couple of the comments above that if a SM or spouse was born in a country then it would be difficult to be stationed in that country as a FAO.

    I was born in Korea (adopted) as was my wife, though we are both naturalized citizens now. I went to DLI for Korean and my last DLPT was a 3/3 though that was a few years ago. I have been in the Army for 16 years and commissioned via OCS in 2009 (currently in the MICCC). Does this mean my chance of being assigned to Korea (if selected as a H) are very, very low?

    my second question is, since I am 5 years out from retirement (4 if i wanted to retire at 20, but not fulfilling the 10 years as officer requirement) do i even have a chance of being selected with the understanding that i would stay in for 30? I wouldn't need to attend language school if selected as a H so there is that...

    Thank you in advance, my email is
  • Matt
    3/26/2014 1:01 PM
    Nathan, HRC is the best source for your first question (about being native-born Korean and serving as a FAO in the ROK). You can certainly serve as a 48H and you might be able to serve (for example) in USFK staff as a 48H, but there will certainly be some restrictions for other jobs. The first thing that comes to mind is that you probably won't be allowed to serve as a ARMA for the US Embassy in Seoul.

    For you second question (30 years of service), the answer is 'no'. Getting selected for FAO (or for any other Functional Area) doesn't guarantee anything. FAOs are being considered and selected for SERB, OSB and eSERB… Our promotion rates are also falling along with everyone else's… So far we haven't lost any billets, but in a worst case scenario the FAO branch could start to shrink too.

    Being a native speaker will give you an advantage in the VTIP process, but the Army will also consider your performance history. I recommend that you finish the CCC and get a company command before applying for VTIP. Also, apply with current DLPT scores, and if you're fluent in Hangul you should also take the upper-range DLPT.

    Good luck, Matt

  • Nathan
    3/30/2014 6:23 PM
    Matt thanks for the response. I was looking more for an answer if my time in service would be a negative for my chances for selection. Im nit sure how the selection board would view someone in my position, or if they would rather get someone with more years available to serve.

    Regarding language, im probably at a 2/2 or maybe a2+/2+/2+ definately not fluent though. Would advanced course be a possibilty?

  • Stephen H. Franke
    3/31/2014 12:12 AM
    Reply to Nathan's query & suggestion (request administration by testers at DLIFLC of telephonic OPI for Korean, vice DLPT)

    FROM: Stephen H. Franke, LTC, FAO (FA 48G)

    Greetings to all in this always-interesting thread.

    If I may inject an observation and suggestion to Nathan in view of his mentioned background in the Korean language.

    Before scheduling his next text and rating of his language proficiency in Korean, Nathan might check out AR 611-6, which describes and details the several available methods for testing & rating & reporting (via DA Form 330) of a US Army service-member's fluency in a foreign language (FL):

    [1] The DLPT is **not** the only nor prerequisite method for conducting an assessment, testing, rating and resultant reporting of a person's (here referring to members of the US Army in whatever component or status) FL proficiency.

    If a US Army service-member is a heritage learner (as apply to some measure in Nathan in view of his family history and also his later completion of resident training in Korean at DLIFLC) has otherwise acquired some proficiency in a FL, a more-valid and accurate method for testing, assessing, and rating that proficiency (plus providing the basis for completion of a required DA Form 330) mat well be a telephonic oral proficiency interview (OPI). That OPI must be requested through, and then scheduled and administered by, the designated Test Control Officer (TCO) in the Education Services Center on nearest DOD installation.

    [2] Check the pertinent portion of AR 611-6 for details of the other authorized methods. Some of those methods apply particularly, or yield more-accurate results than a DLPT, to a person who has acquired proficiency in a FL by other-than-resident FL training at DLIFLC (i.e. home environment, university study, commercial language school, extensive overseas residence / employment, etc.).

    Glad to provide details of a case which involved well-intentioned mis-testing via DLPT of a native-born multilingual US Army Reserve Soldier to determine his eligibility for authorization and payment of Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus (FLPB, former FLPP) incidental to his voluntary mobilization to support an Army OCONUS mission. His complaint to his local IG resulted in an investigation and finding that his servicing TCO should have scheduled him for administration of a telephonic oral proficiency interview (OPI) by DLIFLC-based testers/teachers. The enlightened TCO did that, and based on the OPI, the Soldier received ILR rating of 5/5 in one Middle Eastern FL and ILR 4/4 ratings in several dialects of Arabic.

    I concur with the earlier assessment by another respondent in this thread that Nathan, once he becomes a FAO, would be unlikely to get assignment to ROK with DAO Korea as a member of DIA's Defense Attache System. That aside, one might envision that there would be a number of relevant and substantive FAO-relayted billets available in one of the several US or Joint commands in ROK, USARPAC, and/or PACOM.

    Hope this helps. Today is Sunday, 30 March 2014.

    Regards to all current and future FAOs of all Services.


    Stephen H. Franke
    LTC, FAO/SFA/SOF/MI/Attache
    (FAO 48G "Gulfie," Yemen-watcher, and
    SME/lead trainer of teams of USMC advisors &
    trainers outbound to the CENTCOM AOR)
    US Army Retired
    San Pedro (Los Angeles Waterfront Area), California

    "FAOs Forward!"
  • SPC Linguist
    4/20/2014 10:03 PM
    Dear Sirs/Ladies:

    What are the chances of a current enlisted US Army soldier with a bachelors degree in Linguistics from an American University to apply for a 48B mos or something related to language? I have both Brazilian and American citizenship and have scored 3/3 on the DLPT for Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. I am willing to give up the Brazilian citizenship if necessary.
    Thank you
  • Nicole
    4/29/2014 12:51 AM
    What a GREAT source of information for anyone looking to gain knowledge on the lifestyle of FAO's. I was wondering if there are any sort of forums or sites dedicated to FAO spouses? My husband is looking into the FAO program and I have so many questions and concerns. He speaks Arabic, as well as Spanish. My main fear is not being able to choose our AOC. I know that with his career history to date, he will most likely be assigned as a 48G with us ending up in the Middle East. I'd love to speak with a wife that has first hand experience. I have so many questions! Could you help point me in the right direction? Thanks so much! So far, this blog has been THE largest source of information on the topic of FAO's. I really appreciate all the information everyone has provided so willingly.
  • Matt
    4/29/2014 12:08 PM
    SPC Linguist, it sounds like you have great potential to serve as a FAO one day, but just not yet. Currently this career field is only open for officers, so for starters you'll need to get a commission. Secondly, you'll need to apply to become a FAO at about the 5-8 year mark of your commissioned career. To do this (and to serve as an officer in just about any branch), you'll need to gain a Security Clearance, and this will indeed require you to surrender your Brazilian citizenship. It's a long, but rewarding process! Good luck. Matt
  • Matt
    4/29/2014 12:38 PM
    Nicole, I certainly understand your concern because my wife and I were right there just a few years ago!! However, I recommend that you stay optimistic about it. All the FAOs I know have grown to really enjoy their AOC. Despite all the chaos going on right now between Ukraine and Russia, I'm still really excited to be in the Eurasian FAO community; and I've got a friend who started out being skeptical about being an African FAO, but now (after traveling the region and learning the culture) he loves it!! Your husband could attempt to steer the selection committee by emphasizing some aspects of his background over others, but this is a dangerous game... By de-emphasizing his background in the Middle East, he could be jeopardizing his chances of getting selected into the program at all.

    As far as life in the FAO community, it's surprisingly similar to the life in the military you've experienced so far. I'd guess that ~70% of our jobs are in military organizations (staffs, schools, and military commands) in which you'd live/work on an established military installation. For example, my current job has me living right outside of Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany - this is the biggest American community living outside of the US. I've just recently received PCS Orders, and now I'm heading to D.C. That last 30% of jobs require us to live outside of the established military footprint, but that just means you'll live in the State Department's footprint at embassies around the world. It can be challenging, but (like everything) it just takes a little getting used to, and it's incredibly exciting!!

    I don't have any spouses to refer you to, but if you have any specific questions, feel free to write to me (or have your husband write) to my AKO:

    Good luck!
  • Basil Fedun
    5/12/2014 8:58 PM

    I once commented on your story a few years back, and was wondering if you could answer a few more questions. I graduated with a Russian degree, and I am now an active duty Infantry Officer, currently on schedule to complete IBOLC and then off to Ranger School in July. I then I PCS to Ft. Stewart for my first duty assignment. When it came time to choose a branch, I ADSO'd for Infantry, GRADSO, and SLRP. My commitment is 11 years. My question is, when the time comes to apply to be a FAO, would my commitment to the Infantry interrupt my transfer to going into the FAO field? Also, is there anything a new 2LT should do to better my chances or make my packet look more competitive for when I apply?

    Thank you for this great post!
  • Basil
    5/13/2014 6:08 PM
    Basil -

    Q - "My question is, when the time comes to apply to be a FAO, would my commitment to the Infantry interrupt my transfer to going into the FAO field?

    A - As with anything in the Army, it depends. Having an ADSO means you have an Active Duty Service Obligation; if IN is over strength at the time of your VTIP board, there may be no issue with release to FAO. If they are understrength, you may not get a release. It depends. I suggest with this one, you can monitor the DA G-3/5/7 FAO Branch page, keep an eye on the HRC VTIP page, and keep in touch with a local FAO. You can read all about ADSOs in AR 350-100.

    Q - Also, is there anything a new 2LT should do to better my chances or make my packet look more competitive for when I apply?

    A - Yes, absolutely. The Army is facing budget cuts and is giving preference to officers with higher DLABs, or officers already equipped with languages, regional experience, and masters degrees. You can distinguish yourself from your peers by developing your FAO skills. Go to the source and Read DA PAM 600-3 "Officer Professional Development," Chapter 28 FAO Functional Area 48:

    28–3. Functional area 48 officer development

    b. Lieutenant and captain development prior to functional designation. Experience gained by lieutenants and captains during basic branch assignments serve as the foundation for future effectiveness for FA 48 officers. All officers will attend a branch CCC and are strongly encouraged to seek a key developmental experience prior to functional designation (FD) at the 7th year of commissioned service. The FAO functional area seeks officers with demonstrated language skills, graduate study experience, and regional/international professional experience as a civilian, student, or Soldier. Officers who have received master’s degrees in a regional or international discipline and have shown, through a Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT) or Defense Language Aptitude Test (DLAT), an ability to learn a foreign language will be given special emphasis during the functional area designation process.

    c. Education and training requirements. All FAOs must complete the following unless granted a waiver or constructive credit by the FAO Proponent Office. Officers selected for FAO training who do not satisfactorily complete or receive constructive credit for the FAOOC, language training, ICT and/or ACS may be returned to their basic branch or re-designated into another functional area.

    BLUF: They come right out and say that if you have the chops, you'll get "special emphasis" (STOMP, STOMP):

    - Get regional experience if possible - deployments, training exercises, writing analysis, papers, unit partnerships. Volunteer to escort foreign officers and units. You get the picture, stay involved in the international affairs arena.

    - Study and take the Defense Language Proficiency Test in a language, e.g. Russian, and try to attain the highest scores you can, and keep testing annually - the highest you can go is 5/5/5. Read AR 11-6 for the details. There's a Lower Range test (up to 3/3), an Upper Range Test (up to 5/5) and an OPI (tests Speaking). Not every language has an Upper Range Test; check with the testing office.

    - Work on your Masters if possible/practical.

    - It's all about the relationships. When you get to Ft. Stewart, go to the Division HQ G-1 and ask them if there are any 48 series officers on post. Track them down, and introduce yourself; become their friend, and learn from them. FAO is all about relationships, so if you don't enjoy meeting new people and making relationships, perhaps you ought to reconsider or perhaps work on relationships skills, which can be learned. Check out 1-Minute Manager; any Dale Carnegie book; Steven Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman; The Road Less Travelled, M. Scott Peck.

    - Learn about Security Cooperation and Security Assistance at DISAM - there are online course and certificates at I recommend the 2-hour SCM FM course, the protocol training guide, and the embassy clothing guide. If you have time, sign up for the 15-hour SCM course.

    - Learn about the Army. As a FAO, you will be required to know and represent the Army, not just your former basic branch. So study the Army. Where are the divisions? Corps? ASCCs? USAR units? ARNG?

    - Learn about Joint Operations. Embassies are inherently joint environments, and you will be working with and likely for officers from other services. Learn their rank structures, cultures, customs, and courtesies and you will go far. Start with the joint units on Ft. Stewart - there are Air Force Liaison Officers, and likely a Naval Officer or two; perhaps an embedded Marine. Befriend them and learn from them.

    - Embassies are Interagency and Inorganizational Environments. Read JP 3.08 and the CJCS J7 July 2013 Insights on Interorganizational Coordination (

    - Know the DoD role in an Embassy. (

    I think that should keep you busy ... let me know if this makes sense.

  • Vlad Silayev
    5/27/2014 6:26 PM
    MAJ Brown, I have sent an email to your AKO ( as I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to ask you some questions about the 48E Region and the FAO Branch in general. In the email I wrote a little bit about myself and my background. Hope to hear back from you sir. Thank you.
  • 1LT Woods
    7/21/2014 2:59 PM

    My name is 1LT Woods, I'm an artillery officer at Fort Campbell. I'm currently working to complete my packet for Civil Affairs but your blog has caught my attention. I'm interested in pursuing a military career focused on foreign affairs and policy, it would seem that FAO or CA would both fill that role.

    As such, what are the key differences between FAO and CA? Assuming I want to pursue FAO, when would I begin work on my FAO packet?

    Also, my language of preference would be either Mandarin or a Slavic language.

    Thank you for your time sir.
  • Khaleel
    10/19/2014 9:42 AM
    Any 48J out there that would like to share their experiences. I just got selected and would like to talk to someone. Thanks.

  • Andrew
    2/24/2015 11:40 AM
    I’m an Infantry Cpt about to go to MCCC and plan to submit a FAO packet during KD time. Just have a few questions.
    1) I took a 12 week Pashto course before my second deployment. 113 DLAB and finished the course with a 1+/1+ OPI. That was close to a year and a half ago and I’ve likely dropped to a 0+. Will it be enough that I have shown the capacity to learn a CAT IV language in a short time, or should I brush up on it to maintain my scores? (Not really wanting to go anywhere where Pashto is spoken.... had my fill). Also should I retake the DLAB and try for a higher score?
    2) On my second deployment we were really short staffed as a BN. I was asked to serve as the S9 for our CTF (mainly because I spoke the language). As a 1LT I was responsible for maintaining relations with the government and coordinating for the 2014 national elections. Would my daily dealings with the Provincial Governor, his staff, and the Independent Election Commission give me any leg up? Also would the language and government experience limit me to that AO?
    3) An injury left me with a fused ankle. Walking is no problem but I wear a specially made brace to run/jump. Right now it is only made at a few medical facilities in the states. There are many Soldiers who have deployed with this same device. Would that require any kind of waiver?
    Thanks so much for your time
  • Stephan
    6/29/2015 8:59 AM
    Khaleel, I am a FA-48J. What kind of info are you looking for?
  • Chris
    8/12/2015 11:26 AM
    This might seem like an off the wall question, I'm currently a senior O2 and I just made the list for O3, I have a friend who is an ambassador and he floated the question to me if I would be interested in working in an embassy role. The issue for me is that I am National Guard and I have not seen any discussions that would seem to indicate that the FAO or embassy role is open to National Guard Officers. I know there is a path to going from the Guard to the Reserves (it's actually fairly straightforward my last BN XO just made the switch), is the FAO option open to Officers serving in the reserves or is it striclty limited to the AD side of the house? Would my contact have any influence in the process (as in he would ask for me specifically, and we all know how much HRC loves that sort of thing), he has asked me to begin looking into the process, however it appears from your description that what he is asking of me is way outside the traditional process.
  • Chris Townsend
    9/15/2015 5:52 AM
    I'm on my last training step (IRT in Morocco) now. I did the Master's/Naval War College combo at NPS after Arabic at DLI. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions.

    Chris, Many of the Embassies have a state sister program that places National Guard officers in the Embassies for up to 5 years at a stretch. Here in Morocco we partner with the Utah National Guard. You could check to see if your state has such a program with one of the Embassies.
  • Stephen H. Franke (FAO [48G ME - "Gulfie", US Army Retired)
    9/17/2015 7:18 PM
    Greetings to all in this thread.

    Most interesting to learn that ARNG's state-level mil-to-mil membership programs include placing ARNG officers on oversea tours. What is the purpose of their performing those OCONUS extended tours (how long is each tour or are they performed otherwise on annual, short-term basis)? Does the US Embassy (i.e. most likely, the DAO or SCO part of the US Official Mission) in the receiving country host/support/backstop those ARNG personnel -- a la hosting of FAOs performing IRT -- when in-country? What are the funding sources ARNGT taps for those tours, if other than dedicated funds earmarked for mil-to-mil international programs?

    IMPO, if one is a RC officer interested in the RC FAO FA 48, better all around -- on many aspects -- to switch federal status from ARNG to USAR. The PMO for RC FAOs in FA 48 at USAHRC St Louis manages and operates a long-running program in close synch with the good people at HQDA in DAMO-SSF which oversees the entire US Army FAO FA population. Most RC FAO billets are IMA or DIMA.

    While DIA and HQDA get a good chunk of RC FAOs assigned after their completion of PME and specific FAO-related quals to be a 'full' 48, an emerging "growth market" with opportunities for RC FAOs is Security Cooperation (SC). A number of RC SC billets include OCONUS tours similar to those performed by RC FAOs assigned as IMA/DIMA to DIA's DHS/Defense Attache System (as I was, during 1981-1993). Details & POC data on request.


    For Chris Townsend performing IRT in Morocco;

    Let me know if you can use some open-source descriptive materials about Maghrebi dialects of Arabic. Some are still-useful "oldie goldies" self-training references produced by US universities or other SMEs under contract for the US Peace Corps, among other USG, Canadian, and UK entities.

    I am a "remote mentor" for some newbie FAO 48Gs performing their IRT at the other 48G-linked sites in Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman.

    RUMINT 'rumbles & mumbles' suggest that IRT site may return to Saudi Arabia in the future, 'in shaa' Allah,' partly to exploit the advantageous access by IRTers to the existence of four DOD-managed Security Cooperation Organization -- aka SCOs" -- in the Kingdom. Two of the larger SCOs -- USMTM and OPM SANG -- have hosted IRTers based elsewhere during their orientation visits and other regional travels.

    OPM-SANG advisors have arranged for IRTers to observe and visit SA National Guard HQ, SANG units (mech infantry brigades), the SANG Military Schools complex, and SANG units during field maneuvers/FTX/STX. Most of the reference materials I supply to those IRT sites for 48Gs relate to the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf (ARPEN) region, plus Iran, Yemen and Sudan.

    Hope this helps. Today is Thursday, 17 September 2015.


    Stephen H. Franke
    LTC, US Army Retired
    San Pedro, California

    "FAOs Forward!"
  • Jeanette Chavez
    3/25/2016 12:05 AM
    Greetings to all,
    I have been interested in FAO since I was a young 2LT and now that I am getting close to submitting my packet, I had a few questions. I understand that everything varies by country, but how feasible would it be for my husband to be able to work in another country? (He works in the veterinary field if that matters). Also, how compatible, if at all, is FAO with the State Department's Foreign Officer positions? Ideally, I'd like to retire from the Army and work for the State Dept. but I wouldn't want to be starting at the bottom of the totem pole. Thank you
  • Moses
    4/20/2016 2:58 AM
    I truly appreciate all the information that is provided on this post. I am about to commission, and my heart is set in becoming an FAO.
    A little bit about me that I think will help: I was born and raised in Mexico until I was 10 years old and then commuted back and forth (border town) until I finished my High School education. My proficiency in Spanish is native of course and the DLPT shows that. I have also traveled to El Salvador for a missionary trip one summer.
    You guessed it, I am interested in 48B, but I am a quick learner so if I was allocated in another area I would quickly learn the new language and culture (I think the Army can benefit from having a versatile (FAO).
    Anyway, as I get ready to commission I want to start my graduate degree right away, so when the time comes that I am eligible to apply, I will have both language and degree completed. Which schools and which degrees are approved for FAO? I looked everywhere, and everything pointed to the FAO Proponent website which seems to be down. Does anybody have the list of approved schools and degrees for FAOs?

    Very Respectfully,
  • Anne
    8/20/2016 3:11 AM
    This post is really old but I wanted to ask what the differences would be, if you were in the Army Reserves and wanted to become a FAO?

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