FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Monday, September 20, 2010

State Dept. reception for Foreign Naval Attachés or Thankful to be in the American Navy

I had the great pleasure of attending a reception for the foreign naval attachés residing here in DC last Friday evening.

Before I go further though I must address the issue of attire.  This reception forced me at long last to purchase a set of 'mess dress whites.'  This process costs me half a grand and was VERY painful; painful in that I had to ride over to the Navy annex to find the uniforms and of course it just happened to be when they are in the middle of doing CPO promotion uniform fittings.  And I'll get to repeat this process this winter when I have to purchase normal mess dress...however I won't put it off till the last minute next time so it's sure to go a little easier.

    Amidst my mad rush to ensure I was properly attired (the mini medals go 3 inches below the lapel notch  and you can wear up to 5 of them on a single row) the solitary bright spot was my beautiful wife who was stunning in her black knee length dress.   I say this because when you go to these events you will hear a million definitive answers as to what type of dress the women should wear. Well hopefully this will help some future LT that googles the event next year.  
     Probably about 75% of the women had floor length dresses/gowns.  70% of those were black.  But about 20% of the women had knee length-ish cocktail dresses.  And no one cared.  So don't sweat it.  The coolest dresses there were the Kimonos worn by two of the Japanese women attending.  If there was a similar civilian 'black tie' event in DC I would bet that the cocktail dressers would be nudged about closer to 40% (especially for a two hour event with no dancing or dinner...reference the Meridian yearly ball where about 1/3 of the women in the photos wore cocktail dresses), however the military is always apt to 'overkill' when it comes to dress codes.

   My other advice would be to bring your good camera.  The ballroom where the event is held is beautiful, and the view from the outdoor balcony overlooks the lincoln memorial.  

    For the desk officers this was a great opportunity to connect with counterparts in a relaxed atmosphere (free beer and wine!) and to meet their wives.  Being able to form these personal relationships makes doing business SO much easier!

     One conversation with a northern european (I will withhold the country's name) attaché ended up surprising me and is the reason behind this posting's title.  As we chatted with this gent, we shared with him that we had rented a limo to take in the city following the reception.  He laughed and said that if he tried that in his country he'd end going home with a bloodied uniform.  Further discussion yielded that their military members rarely wear their uniforms in public (and certainly NEVER at night) due to the certain public backlash.  
    On one hand this conversation saddened me because this gent was such a sharp, nice guy who had honorably dedicated his life to serving his country.  However, on the other hand this anecdote served to reinforce my appreciation for a country and a public that appreciates its service members (excluding the 1970's) and allows us to take pride in wearing the uniform.  
    And as we ventured into and through the city that night I think I must have been thanked for my service a half dozen times, and I replied 'you're welcome' with a renewed appreciation.

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