Why I Serve

August 4, 2011
Consul Nikolas Trendowski in Kabul, Afghanistan

When I chose to serve in Afghanistan, I didn't fully realize it would be the best decision I'd ever make in my Foreign Service career. It's certainly the most unusual job I've had as a consular officer. Nothing is easy in Afghanistan, not even a simple trip down the street. Even after 10 years into my career, I'm always learning something new here in Afghanistan. It's both exhausting and inspiring, frustrating and uplifting.

For me, working in Afghanistan isn't just an opportunity to serve on the frontlines of American diplomacy, it represents a chance to take on unique challenges. I was a bit skeptical about how to deliver consular services in the capital of a country emerging from decades of conflict. What I found was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead and transform not just a consular section but to help in some small way to transform a country's perceptions of America's long-term commitment here. During this year, we completed the final steps in the transformation of U.S. Embassy Kabul's Consular Section to a full-service operation, from emergency services for Americans to immigrant visa interviews. That's quite an accomplishment in a war zone.

We've currently issued a travel warning for Afghanistan. We provide new information all the time about the difficulties of life in Afghanistan and why it's not a good idea for private citizens to come here. Yet they do, and we help them the best we can. Putting a human face on America for thousands of visa applicants, too, is part of our job. In the photo above, you'll see one Afghan citizen, the first person ever to be issued a temporary worker visa here in Kabul.

I've met so many inspiring people here, not least of which are my own consular staff -- both Afghan and American. I've also met people who are trying to pull one over on us and whom we need to prevent from ever coming to the United States.

But, when I see how far we've come, how far Afghanistan has come, I'm still amazed. There's a long way to go yet, but I feel honored to play a small part in the transformation. Meanwhile, as a consular officer, being able to help my fellow Americans -- whether they're arrested or kidnapped or pass away abroad, when there really is no one else they can turn to -- is something special. It is why I serve.



August 4, 2011

Seewisahn in Thailand writes:

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