The Foreign Service Journal, June 2008

30 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U N E 2 0 0 8 he Foreign Service has undergone profound changes in the last several years, but the most dramatic is a rapid increase in the number of assignments to unaccompanied posts. These fall into three categories: fully unaccompanied; limited-accom- panied (adults only); and Iraq or Afghanistan (colloquial- ly known as “Afraq”), for which there are special bene- fits. Immediately prior to 9/11, there were approximately 200 unaccompanied and limited-accompanied (adults only) State Department positions worldwide. As of this writing, there are more than 900 such slots at 16 overseas posts. The trend is clear: Most current Foreign Service employees can expect to serve at a post without their families at some point in their careers. While the majority of the positions designated unac- companied (350) are in Iraq, employees also serve with- out their families in countries ranging from Algeria to Yugoslavia (see sidebar, p. 32). My own husband is serv- ing in an adults-only post, Pristina. Because I’m staying in Washington with our children, he is unaccompanied. A family with an employee doing an unaccompanied assignment may be eligible for either an Involuntary or a Voluntary Separate Maintenance Allowance — or even embassy housing and overseas school tuition, if the employee accepts a tour in Iraq while serving at an over- seas post. And the employee may be eligible for home leave, Rest & Recreation travel, Family Visitation Travel, or some combination thereof. According to State’s Bureau of Human Resources, as of February there were about 220 families contending with the difficulties of an unaccompanied tour. Yet State has lagged in developing a support network for us. Currently, there is just one position in the Family Liaison Office dedicated to unaccompanied tour support. (A slot for an assistant, funded by the Iraq supplemental appropriation to the department’s budget, is in the works.) And to date, no funds have been added to the FLO general budget for unaccompanied tour support. All existing UT-related programs have been funded out of the general FLO budget, with grants from the Una Chapman Cox Foundation, or by the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide. Information, Please First and foremost, unaccompanied spouses and part- ners need information about the support available to F O C U S O N T H E F S P E R S O N N E L S Y S T E M G OING I T A LONE : F AMILY L IFE IN THE ‘N EW ’ F OREIGN S ERVICE M OST FS EMPLOYEES WILL SERVE UNACCOMPANIED TOURS DURING THEIR CAREERS . W HAT KIND OF SUPPORT CAN THEIR FAMILIES EXPECT ? B Y K ELLY B EMBRY M IDURA T Kelly Bembry Midura is a Web site designer, writer and temporarily single mom living in Reston, Va. She has accompanied her FSO husband, Chris Midura, to La Paz, Guatemala City, Lusaka, San Salvador and Prague.