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2010 State Department Awards FSNs

2010 State Department Awards FSNs

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Published by Diplopundit
2010 FSN awards extracted from State Magazine
2010 FSN awards extracted from State Magazine

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Published by: Diplopundit on Mar 09, 2011
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03/09/2011

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18
 State MagazineFebruary 2011
T e winners o the Department’s 2010 Foreign Service NationalEmployee o the Year award have this in common: T ey like to helppeople, especially those in dire straits with nowhere else to turn.Another common thread that emerged rom interviews with eachFSN o the Year is that they love their jobsthe variety and challenges.Most were quick to share the credit or their achievements; they saidthey were part o great teams and couldn’t have accomplished what they did without the hard work and dedication o others.T e winners represent thousands o other Locally Employed Sta around the world, without whose e orts U.S. missions could notunction, said Under Secretary or Political A airs William Burns, whohanded out the awards. “T ey are truly the backbone o every U.S.embassy and consulate,” he said.Coordinated by the O ce o Overseas Employment in the Bureauo Human Resources, the awards honor an FSN rom each o the sixregional bureaus. T ey were selected rom among dozens o outstandingnominees. One o the six, Dominique Gerdes, was named Department-wide FSN o the Year.
FSNs of the Year
FSNs of the Year Helped Those Who Needed It the Most ///
By Bill Palmer 
T e winner representing the Bureau o Arican A airs wasunable to come to Washington or the awards ceremony. A bureau representative said, “Due to concerns or the individual’ssaety, we are unable to reveal the name o AF’s FSN o the Year.”
WHA
Dominique Gerdes, visa specialist at the U.S. Embassy inPort-au-Prince, Haiti, is the Department-wide FSN o the Year.Nominated by the Bureau o Western Hemisphere A airs, shewas cited or her indispensable leadership in the atermath o the catastrophic January 2010 earthquake and her dedication toexcellence in consular operations.According the embassy’s nominating cable, Gerdes was oneo just a ew LE Sta to return to work the day ollowing theearthquake. She said she couldn’t sit at home and that herattitude was: “Let’s go do something.” But when she got to theembassy, she ound chaos inside and out. At  rst, there were noclear instructions. “We had to improvise,” she said.
 
She contacted all o her sta , and they agreed to return, despite concerns aboutworking inside a building while atershockswere occurring and about amily memberswho were still missing. “I had a great team,”she said. “T ey would see me coming andask ‘what’s next?’”In addition to coordinating the LE Sta ,the embassy said, she helped orient morethan 75 temporary duty personnel, managedtranslator teams or humanitarian paroleprocessing and prepared several hundredemergency immigrant visas or orphans.She also oversaw the eeding o babies in theconsular waiting room and the stocking o ood and water or 16,000 evacuees at theairport. She said the drive to the airport,only a ew kilometers away, took two to threehours on the clogged roads.She was “a constant guiding presencein our crisis response,” the embassy said,“working nonstop or several weeks, even inthe ace o the devastation that took the liveso her close riends.” During that period, shesaid, “I elt no emotion; I had to keep going.My head was spinning.”o all that multitasking, she added onemore task: She readied her team to reopenimmigrant visa processing. T e embassy saidthat in less than six weeks they were up andrunninga nearly impossible achievement.One day, the sta worked until 9 p.m.and processed 1,000 people, she said. “Wedecided to take as many as we couldopenhouse, no appointments.”Gerdes has worked or the embassy or 29years. She is married and has three children.
SCA
Agha anveer Hussain, senior security investigator working or the regional security o ce at the U.S. Consulate General inLahore, Pakistan, is the FSN o the Yearor the Bureau o South and Central AsianA airs. He was cited or improving U.S.-Pakistan bilateral relations and making U.S.mission outreach possible during a periodo increased terrorist activity, unprecedentedsta growth and record-setting numbers o o cial visitors.T e post nominating cablecommended him or his quick ande ective reaction to an attempt bdemonstrators in 2009 to storm theconsulate compound. Since the regionalsecurity o cer was away rom post,Hussain had to come in rom homeitwas a holidayto deal with the mob o several dozen demonstrators, who acedlittle resistance rom the ew local policepresent. He instructed the embassy guardsto immediately lock down the acility.Although police reinorcements had notyet arrived, Hussain talked to the demonstra-tors and asked them to disperse. He said hismessage to them was: “T is is not the way toact. We are Pakistanis. T ese diplomats areour guests.”Aterward, he convinced the police toinstall an anti-personnel barrier. It took threemonths to get all the permissions. Policesupport or the consulate is “unmatched,
Gerdes Hussain
 
20
 State MagazineFebruary 2011
he said, adding that the police chie inLahore texts him about possible threats. Hehas good relations with all the other policedistricts in Punjab Province, too.T at came in handy when Pakistaniauthorities arrested  ve Americans, wantedby the FBI or alleged terrorist activities, inthe Sargodha District o Punjab. Pakistanilaw enorcement o cials were under intensepolitical pressure to prevent U.S. governmentaccess to the detainees, the consulate said,but Hussain used his contacts to get U.S.o cials into the jail to interview them.Hussain also worked closely with Secretary o State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s security detail and local authorities preparing or herOctober 2009 visit. T e consulate said hehelped both sides strike the right balancebetween keeping her sae and enablingher to reach out to the people o Pakistan.Hussain successully argued against includinga particular shrine that the advance teamwanted her to visit. “It had never been shutto the public in the past 900 years,” hesaid, and it would have to have been shuton a signicant religious day, which couldgenerate bad press.Hussain has worked or the consulate ormore than 10 years. He is married and hastwo sons.
NEA
Mona El-Azem, passport and citizenshipspecialist at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus,Syria, is the FSN o the Year or the Bureauo Near Eastern A airs. She was cited orexceptional proessionalism and compassionin assisting Americans abroad.In her 27 years with the embassy, shehas risen to many challenges, the embassy’snominating cable noted: assisting Americansstreaming into Syria in the 1980s ollowingturmoil in Lebanon and Iraq, helpingdisplaced American workers in the 1990sater Saddam Hussein’s troops marched intoKuwait and, in this decade, helping desperateAmericans making their way to Syria roma Lebanon under siege and aiding Americanteachers ater the closing o the AmericanSchool in Damascus.T e work is stressul, she said, but “I trto be gracious and polite.” She said she relieson good personal relationships to build thechannels she needs to get what she wants.She reached out to her extensive contactsto compile authoritative reerence materialson a range o issues rom parental custody to penalties or immigration violations. Hercontributions to the consular Sharepoint siteenable the entire section to draw on her vastknowledge, the embassy said.But it is her work on individual cases thatshows her compassion. She ensured that ahomeless mother with  ve children oundshelter despite having no money and nocitizenship documents. “I was looking ora shelter day and night,” she said. “I had tobeg.” It took  ve months to get the amily documents and get them to the UnitedStates. T e mother wrote rom New York and told her, “You saved my lie. You savedmy amily.
SrithamAzem

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