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How to Become an Ambassador
Tom Armbruster
Word Count:
40,000 - 60,000
Currently Published?

I've been asked thousands of questions about serving in American embassies and consulates around the world but the questions really boil down to 'what would Foreign Service life be like for me?' I've written a 22 step guide to becoming an ambassador, with all the long shots that had to come through to make it happen. My odyssey began in Moscow as a nanny in the midst of the Cold War. I was the only American diplomat to arrive in the Soviet Union by kayak. That was an adventure with some Finnish friends. I returned to Russia for a posting as Nuclear Affairs Officer and later Consul General in Vladivostok. Russia was my home base in the Foreign Service, but I also served in Finland, Cuba, Mexico, Tajikistan, and finally Ambassador to the Marshall Islands, one of the world's most vulnerable countries to sea level rise. I'm a field guy with a special interest in environmental diplomacy.

International Relations students get it. They know that the job of Foreign Service Officer today is about development, crisis response, public diplomacy and consular services. Cookie pushing not so much. I spent more time in foreign prisons advocating for incarcerated Americans than at fancy diplomatic receptions. This is a perfect gift for the graduate still looking for a calling. It's also a reality check. There are tough days and real sacrifices. The drug violence was particularly taxing in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico where I returned the remains of murdered Americans to their families.

Currently, I lead State Department teams to U.S. Embassies for the Office of the Inspector General with reports on Embassy Copenhagen, Bogota, and the South and Central Asia bureau. My job is to evaluate the Ambassador. We'll go to Chad and Mauritania this spring. Diplomacy is a team sport, and it is still relevant in a rapidly changing interdisciplinary world. For those looking to dedicate their lives to international affairs, I can offer something of a game plan.

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