The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2012

54 F OR E I GN S E R V I C E J OU R N A L / J U L Y - A UGU S T 2 0 1 2 A F S A N E W S 2012 AFSA OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE AWARD WINNERS W hile assigned to the German-led Regional Command North headquarters platform in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, Office Management Specialist JimVelez put his previous 26 years of experience serving in the U.S. Army, followed by Foreign Service assignments to Baghdad, Jakarta and Brussels, to good use. He took on many of the functions of a facilities manager, assistant general services officer, translator and morale booster. “It wasn’t long after my arrival before I realized that my mili- tary background would serve me well in this unique operational environment. The offices and residences of the U.S. senior civil- ian representative required frequent facilities maintenance-type support and liaison with a variety of German and NATO offices located throughout the large base,” Velez adds. The German air base, Camp Marmal, serves as the platform for five subordinate Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Prior to Velez’s arrival, there had been tension between U.S. personnel and their North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners, mostly due to lack of proficiency in German. “Velez’s fluency in the language, combined with his profound understanding of the command structures of the U.S. military and NATO organiza- tions, allowed him to actively engage our NATO counterparts, thereby vastly improving the relationship,” the nomination states. Establishing rapport with key German maintenance person- nel allowed Velez to respond to any issues or problems affecting chief-of-mission personnel, whatever the hour. He had some- one there when the heating systems in the residential containers went out, when satellite problems arose, the cable systems need- ed repair and when supplies were offloaded from embassy cargo planes. He even found someone to assemble bicycles for staff The Nelson B. Delavan Award FOR A FOREIGN SERVICE OFFICE MANAGEMENT SPECIALIST James R. Velez E ach year, AFSA singles out a Community Liaison Office Coordinator for his or her job performance during the previous year. This is no easy task. The exceptional nature of the job tends to attract outstanding individuals. AFSA looks for one CLO who has been not only willing and able to take on the many challenges the position presents, but somehow manages to do it all and more. Sara Butler proved her mettle by re-establishing the Community Liaison Office in earthquake-devas- tated Port-au- Prince and, in so doing, trans- formed the quality of life for those assigned there. That was no small task given the extent of the damage and the fact that it is her first Foreign Service post. Information and resource management — skills she honed as a congressional aide on Capitol Hill —proved to be among Sara’s strong suits. She effectively collected a wealth of informa- tion on Haiti for newly assigned personnel and those considering bidding. She also revitalized the CLO intranet site; directed a post video providing a realistic picture of what people can expect at post; and revised and produced newmaterial on Port-au- Prince for the Overseas Briefing Center. Another particularly noteworthy endeavor was the CLO Yellow Pages. After the quake destroyed landlines, many busi- nesses were forced to switch to cell phones. Sara, along with Quisha Calixte, the locally engaged staff administrative assistant in the CLO office, spent three months canvassing local business- es, collecting more than 250 listings. Sara has proven to be a strong advocate for community needs during the rebuilding phase of the mission. The manage- ment section relied on her innate ability to consider the needs of others and to gauge the effect management decisions could have on post morale. These skills were essential, given high personnel turnover and a 40-percent loss of post housing stock. Sara’s perspective says it all: “It can be easy at hardship posts to focus on what is not available. I really wanted to embrace the challenge of finding creative ways to organize events and activi- ties within Haiti’s parameters.” A Habitat for Humanity project, The M. Juanita Guess Award FOR A COMMUNITY LIAISON OFFICE COORDINATOR Sara Butler Jim Velez with his trusty vehicle, Max. Sara Butler plays with a child at the Rose Mina Orphanage. Continued on page 59 Continued on page 58