Step By Step – How I Obtained An Influential Place In The Diplomatic World

Step by Step and the thing is done. – Charles Atlas

What do a trip to Alaska, Wichita Kansas, and Strasbourg France have to do with becoming the US Air Traffic Representative in Brussels Belgium?  These were places where key development and training took place as I progressed toward an unlikely career path within the field of air traffic. 

Step By Step Without A Clue

Step By StepIn fact, when I applied to become an air traffic controller, I had no lofty vision.  I was hungry, not for any self-actualization, but for food and clothes.  After my first husband abandoned me, I was barely getting by financially.  I needed a better-paying job.

It was a walk of faith.  A lot of foundation laying came before the above three pivot points converged, which I wrote about in a previous BLOG post.   A major stone in that foundation was my time at the University of Strasbourg where I learned French.

While serving at Wichita Airport Traffic Control, I also served on the Board of Directors (BOD) of the Professional Women Controllers (PWC) organization. We met in person a couple of times a year, one meeting was always in conjunction with the annual conference. 

In 1994 that conference was in Anchorage Alaska.  I did not want to go.  At a difficult place in my career,  I felt stuck.  Going to a conference with a bunch of ambitious women air traffic controllers was not appealing at that moment.

In addition, it was a very long trip from Wichita to Anchorage.  Especially long when riding on the flight deck as part of an air traffic familiarization training program. I arrived in the middle of June at 2 AM to Alaska’s never-setting sun, a sign that things were turning around. 

Step By Step – More Stones

Step By StepTo open the BOD meeting, the FAA Regional Director, who was a co-founder of PWC, went around the table asking what each of our career goals was.  I was not in the mood.  However, I went along, tossing out “I want to do more international work, maybe even work in the FAA Brussels Belgium office”.  This was on my Individual Development Plan, but as I said it out loud, I knew how audacious this was. 

I had just submitted my name to go into a pool of potential resources that the FAA would use to respond to other country’s requests for assistance in their civil aviation systems on a temporary duty basis.  Little did I know, that in the next few weeks, events would align:

  • My request for consideration for international work would spark a phone call asking me to apply for consideration to the air traffic staff position in Brussels Belgium.
  • The Alaska FAA Regional Director, who just noted my audacious declaration would be detailed to FAA Headquarters where she would be charged with reviewing the panel of applicants for the Brussels position.

The combination of my:

  • degree in French from the University of Strasbourg, France, and experience living abroad
  • broad operational experience in air traffic
  • active private pilot
  • knowledge of the National Airspace System from airports, civil-military coordination, and air traffic procedures

All converged to highlight my application and ultimately for selection for the position.

Broader And Broader

So how does this position fit into the diplomatic world?  Whenever a non-State Department US Civil Servant is posted abroad, although they remain an employee of their agency, they come under the cover of the Ambassador to the country in which they are posted.  This means you carry a diplomatic passport and are subject to the rules and guidelines of the State Department. 

As a side note, the exception is Department of Defense employees.  Those folks both civil and military fall under DOD jurisdiction.  Of course, there is much coordination between all concerned parties. 

I was always an FAA employee, but during my time in Belgium, I carried a Diplomatic passport with its privileges and responsibilities.   The Ambassadors  were apprised of my liaison with:

  • other countries,
  • the US military,
  • NATO,

and other entities surrounding the air traffic world in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. 

Your Story Is Step By Step Too!

The point is, as we live our daily lives, many times we are unaware, except in retrospect, of how things are related.  As a Christian, I know my God is always working in the background for my good.  At this time, He was arranging on my behalf.  However, there was nothing that I could see that indicated what He was up to!  

So be encouraged, in these tumultuous times even with all of the nonsense, the background work is happening.  But what we can see, is not all that is going on.  A story is being written which includes yours!

In retrospect, what story emerged in your life?  Please comment below.  Be sure to download the FREE  Five Legacy Story PDF.  It will help you recognize that hidden story!

I am a former air traffic controller, pilot, Aircoupe owner, married 42 years to a great guy. We live in a 125+ year old historic Victorian, enjoy cats, vintage anything, precious friends. My passion is Giving Lost Stories A Voice – Giving Found Materials Fresh Form and Purpose!

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