Why I Volunteered to Serve in Iraq

Posted by Shelia Moyer
November 24, 2007

This blog entry was written by Shelia Moyer, an Employee Relations Officer who volunteered to serve in Iraq.

I joined the Foreign Service committed to serve and to work anywhere in the world to use my skills to help accomplish our nation’s objectives. I’ve done so willingly throughout my career with great satisfaction. Having fulfilled my requirement to serve at hardship posts, I returned to Washington intent on planning for my transition to a career outside of government, to support young family members now in college or contemplating careers, particularly since I have not been around to watch them grow into young men and women. Because we are a close-knit family, the Foreign Service has always been a difficult sacrifice for us.

I have had the good fortune to live, work, or travel in every geographic region. Along the way, I have lost family members. I have lost close friends and colleagues in Embassy bombings and keep in touch with some who were injured. I recall one colleague’s commitment and testimony following her injury in the Beirut bombing that killed over 400 Marines, “If I could return, I would.” I have reached a point where I could retire without penalty and move on. My plans are once again interrupted by a calling to serve. I have accepted. I have volunteered.

Iraq, however, will be the most difficult for those I leave behind – my family, my husband. This time I have their tacit support, their prayers. They understand that I committed to work anywhere without the foresight of how the world would change or the environment under which we must carry out our day to day tasks. Most of us in the Foreign Service are accustomed to danger, hardship, isolation, but not the perils of war. Regardless of your politics, we have a historic mission in Baghdad. I want to put my management skills to the test. I want to be a part of a historic interagency effort to achieve our most important foreign policy objective.



Syrian P.
November 25, 2007

SNP in Syria writes:

Nice lady, why try joining the Peace Corps and be part of developing and helping people for real. Otherwise, the Jesuit Order is fine too, they have lost loved one and sacrificed dearly just as well. With all this well scripted blog write up, you have not stated how you in fact are going to be in help in a place as messed up and ruined, devastated, economically, socially, culturally and nationally by America as Iraq.

November 25, 2007

Jonothan in Australia writes:

While I disagree wholeheartedly with the Iraq war, I believe that what the Foreign Service is doing in Iraq is a good thing. We can't change what has happened to the country, all we can do now is try and rebuild it into a healthy and functioning democracy. I wish all of those working there the best luck with this difficult mission.

Kentucky, USA
November 25, 2007

Paul in Kentucky writes:

Thank you for volunteering for this vital mission. Having never been a diplomat (only a soldier in Iraq) I have no way of understanding the frustration you may feel throughout your assignment. As I patrolled in and around Baghdad and Fallujah the most inspiring and rewarding aspect of nation building was leaving the safe confines of my armored vehicle and walking to the front door of a local Iraqi. I will not suggest anything lofty, like a true bond or a mutual understanding of each other's plight, but I would hope that the face he uses for the United States is mine.

What I want to say is that I hope State lets you meet with these people. I believe a grassroots effort is needed even if it is just to say hello. You will find them much more receptive if your visit is as covert as possible. They never know who is watching. I also urge you to reach out to local Marine and Army units for patrols and to teach them the art of statesmanship. This is what the majority of Iraq will see and one negative encounter with ignorant American forces can unravel years of building trust. Thank you again for your efforts.

Nevada, USA
November 26, 2007

Andrew in Nevada writes:

Ms. Moyer:

It is admirable that you choose to volunteer in Iraq. I am sure the phrase, "someone has to do it" applies here. And you probably provide an invaluable service most of us would not know. Out of curiousity, do you always get to choose or volunteer where you want to go or does the State Deptartment, tell you where you are assigned to?

Thank you.

United States
November 26, 2007

B in U.S. writes:

Please explain: if you took an oath to serve anywhere around the world and you can apparently be forced to serve anywhere around the world, why do they pay you more to go to a place like Baghdad?

They should pay everyone the same salary worldwide.

The H.
California, USA
November 26, 2007

H in California writes:

Shelia - I admire and honor your courage and your demonstrated dedication to the welfare of your country. The Foreign Service needs a lot more solid professionals like you. God speed and be safe. Thanks for what you do.

District Of Columbia, USA
November 27, 2007

Dan in Washington, DC writes:

Regarding the contributions that the State Department and U.S. Foreign Service officers (FSOs) make to our nation's and the world's freedom, security and prosperity, here is a link to an interesting speech by the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, where he argues that the State Department needs significantly more resources and more FSOs. For example, here is an interesting excerpt from Gates' speech:

"Consider that this year’s budget for the Department of Defense -- not counting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan -- is nearly half a trillion dollars. The total foreign affairs budget request for the State Department is $36 billion -- less than what the Pentagon spends on health care alone. Secretary Rice has asked for a budget increase for the State Department and an expansion of the Foreign Service. The need is real.

"Despite new hires, there are only about 6,600 professional Foreign Service officers -- less than the manning for one aircraft carrier strike group. And personnel challenges loom on the horizon. By one estimate, 30 percent of USAID’s Foreign Service officers are eligible for retirement this year -- valuable experience that cannot be contracted out."

Gates' entire speech is found at this link:

United States
November 28, 2007

Mick in U.S.A. writes:

@ Dan in Washington, DC and H in California -- agree.

@ B in U.S. -- the State Department HAS to pay people more in dangerous places to make it worthwhile to go there. If they did not pay a premium to serve in dangerous areas, nobody would sign up for the Foreign Service. Sure, the Department could legally force employees to serve there. But, without a pay increase to compensate for the sacrifice, you'd have a lot more employees finding other jobs (at least those with more marketable skills).

@ Andrew in Nevada -- The State Department tells you where to go. At first, you have no options and you usually do 3 or 4 years of work in Consular assignment.

United Arab Emirates
December 7, 2007

M in U.A.E. writes:

I think every American proud of your service.

How about there are many people won't accept to work in Iraq no matter how much the payment they get?

Brave woman.

No question about it.

December 12, 2007

Mina in Kuwait writes:

How I can volunteer to serve? I'm Egyptian and I live in Kuwait.


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