Saturday, March 29, 2014

Week 4 of Training: HF Radios!

Monday morning my classmates and I were happy to be back at FSI for week three of training. This week we tackled High Frequency (HF) Radios, yet another topic I knew nothing about before starting the class. I can now honestly say, radios are WAY cooler than I ever knew. Example: I never knew radios could use ionosphere propagation to broadcast past line of sight.

Our instructor was a huge amateur radio enthusiast and had many decades of work experience, so he was readily able to answer any and every question we had. The class covered everything from theory, to installation, operation and maintenance of HF radios. Although the class was definitely interesting, it was also one of those things you want to know how to use, but then hope to never need to use. In the current day and age, radios aren't really used for primary communication while at post (since we have the internet, satellites, and other direct lines), but can be invaluable for emergency situations. Especially in situations like Cario 2013, when the Egyptian government cut the phone and internet lines throughout the country.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

(More) Official Departure Date!

Well it's slightly more official! We're leaving on June 26th for India! Traveling to a new post is split up into six 'parts.' This is all detailed in the 3 FAH-1 H-3761.2 Travel Messages, but it all boils down to the following steps.

TMONE: “Assignment Notification.”
TMTWO: “Proposed Itinerary.”
TMTHREE: "Welcome to Post Letter."
TMFOUR: “Travel Authorization.”
TMFIVE: “Departure from Current Post.”
TMEIGHT: “Arrival at New Post.”

I submitted my TMTWO, and promptly received my TMFOUR from my HR Technician. This allows me to apply for my diplomatic passport, which will let me apply for my visas. One step closer to ship-out/TMFIVE day!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Week 3 of Training: How to Commute!

Ostensibly the second week of training (for my quarter of the cohort) was about communication systems. It was taught by DTS-PO, and I'll let you read about what they do, if you so desire. The training was good, albeit a little lengthy for the amount of material being covered. We were learning about a system that none of the six of us have ever used, so it was definitely worth while, but...

For me, week two was a valuable lesson in how awful commuting can make my life. The traini
ng was not held at FSI, but rather at an offsite location even further from my house. Class started at 8, so I was fortunate enough to miss most of the morning traffic, leaving myself only an hour and a half drive. I was not so fortunate on the way home. My best day was just over two hours, and my worst was almost three and a half. Fortunately, the weather did me a favor and provided our THIRD snow day of the year on Monday. I'll be honest though, it was hard to feel too lucky on Wednesday when I was passing the 5 hour mark of 'commute time' for the day. <start rant> I was also a little bitter because they wouldn't give me mileage for the extra drive distance because it should be covered by the per diem that I don't get as a local hire! <end rant>

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Brand New Car... to me.

My new car. (I think.)
I bought a car! It's in India! I've never seen it... and before this week, I'd never even heard of the model, but whatever, don't rain on my parade. The information put out by the CLO and post literature in Chennai seem to consistently indicate two things:
1) Cars are essential in Chennai.
2) Buying a car takes several months.
The suggested solution to this is to start the buying process before arriving. The CLO published a mini classifieds for departing officers looking to sell their cars. I saw a good deal on a 2008 Hyundai Getz, so I made an offer! From here, we both sign some paperwork and the General Services Officer (GSO) at post will file the sale paperwork with the Indian government. They start it now, because it takes several months for the title change to be processed, so (in theory) we'll be able to exchange the money and car some time in July!

Next up, finding a driver. The previous owner of the car had a driver (which she hired on from the owner before her). It seems likely we will do the same, but we'll have plenty of time to work that out when we can actually meet him. I've never had a chauffeur before... It seems like it could be awkward, but with low wages and awful traffic, hiring a driver seems to be the prevailing practice for Foreign Service Officers (FSO) in Chennai... when in Rome!

Monday, March 17, 2014

First Contact

Oh, different kind of first contact.
Aren't I the popular one? Less than two days after receiving my TM ONE (the official notification to me and my future post that I will be going there), I received an e-mail from the current head of Information Management (IM) at Chennai. She sent me a delightful e-mail welcoming me to "Incredible India."

A couple days later, the fun began with a bunch of e-mails from the Community Liaison Officer (CLO). It continued when I learned that shortly after arriving at post, both of the currently-filled IMS positions will be vacated, leaving me as the sole IM officer until my new boss arrives a month later. In fact, the timing is so tight, management at post is trying everything in their power to rearrange my training schedule so I can arrive two weeks earlier! Well, while the higher ups work on that, time for me to work on the the housing and social surveys the CLO sent me. My excitement is building by the day!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Week 2 of Training: Basic Telephones!

This week was our first week of 'actual training' at FSI. Since our group is so large, they split us into 2 groups, and then further split those groups into two groups for half the classes. My subgroup started training with Basic Telephones. The class started with learning to punch 24 gauge cross connects and finished with a practical exam to take the system from no-configuration to fully configured. 
Recycling our used wires!
I'll be honest... I knew next to nothing about phones going into this course... and it was a blast! I learned a ton. The instructor was informative and entertaining; the class was small, and the atmosphere was very relaxed. We finished all the material on Wednesday, so we spent Thursday doing a beefed up practical exam and took our written exam Friday morning. As expected, everyone passed. 

I hope my remaining 9 courses are as informative and fun as this one! Next week's class is offsite, which means a longer commute, but is another subject I know nothing about. I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Information Management Specialist Vacancy

Good news! It's time to follow in my foot steps! There is a new vacancy announcement for the Information Management Specialist (IMS)! It's a slow process (as you can see on the right), but if you follow my timeline, applying to this vacancy, which closes April 6th, 2014, could have you finishing up your first week by this time next year! Best of luck!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Week 1 of Training: IRM Tradecraft

This week was the first week of our specialty-specific training. The week was labeled as the "Information Resource Management (IRM) Tradecraft." IRM is the name of the Bureau that IMS and Information Management Technical Specialists (IMTS) fall under when stationed in Washington.

The week started off with a bang... also known as a snow day. It continued with a two hour delayed start on Tuesday, making the coordinator of our session scramble to reschedule speakers. He ended up getting in almost all of the sessions, by abbreviating most of them by a few minutes. Although this week was technically our first week of 'training,' I think it's more accurate to call it 'Orientation Week Four.' It consisted of a bunch of briefings shallowly touching on subjects only important to IMS (and IMTS). For example, we went over topics like crisis management, hiring locally employed staff (LES), IRM career development, and the remote support structure available to us while overseas.

All in all it wasn't the most exciting week so far, but for our last session they handed out our schedules for the next 13 weeks! Many people have told us that the IMS training is comprehensive, and we'll be ready to do everything on day one... I thought I had a pretty good handle on things going in, but this training includes a bunch of stuff I've never really had to deal with before. Time to learn more about phones, satellites, and radios than I ever expected to!