Twitter and email info

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Career In The Intelligence Field....How to Prepare.

Whenever someone discovers my profession, they usually ask about the qualifications necessary for a person to become an Intelligence Officer.  All the tools of the trade, what we in the business call "tradecraft", I learned during my two-year training program.  This blog is not the proper forum for me to discuss my training, but I would like to offer some suggestions regarding "pre-application" preparation.  Before you make the decision to pursue this type of career, be honest with yourself about the sacrifices you will have to make, and some of the ethical choices you will face in your career.  From this point on in the post, I will be addressing life as an Operations Officer.  It wouldn't make much sense for me to talk about life as a linguist or a Finance Officer now would it?  An Operations Officer is tasked with living overseas and collecting confidential/secret information, usually about other countries.  Most of the time that information will come to you from someone who, in all honesty, in betraying their own country.  Don't take this job if you are not a patriot.  You must believe with all your being that our principles and values and love of liberty must be protected regardless of the cost.  If you have issues with that question, join the Peace Corps or take the Foreign Service Exam in Rosslyn. 

Be sure and take a good look at the globe.  Vienna is lovely this time of year, and winters in Buenos Aires must be great.  This job is not a Travel Agency, and choosing your assignments by party calendar will leave your career in the dumpster.  In order to succeed as an Ops Officer, you must recruit people to provide important, confidential information.  Many times (most times, in my experience) our government needs information from and about  shitholes, to put it bluntly.  My first real assignment was in Europe.  It was a location that had recently suffered through a civil war of sorts, and broken military hardware seemed to be everywhere.  When I landed all I could think about were the newsreels from Europe after World War Two.  It seemed every house had sustained damage, and many just weren't there.  Electricity was on and off, the water was like mud, and the roads were a disaster.  Because all the European NGOs had already arrived (and the various G.I.s), decent food was available.  Every corner had an Italian Restaurant and the discos (many times burned-out buildings with a stereo and two speakers) were crammed with beautiful young people.  I had a television in my hotel room, and the only time it worked was after midnight, when the satellite would pick up some of the most disturbing, atrocious German porn you can imagine.  I watched every night.

I was attempting to paint a discouraging picture and I think I accomplished the opposite.  The truth is, having a shower was tricky, getting the SUV stuck was an everyday occurrence, and it was impossible to have regular contact back home.  It seemed to rain everyday, and mud was everywhere.  It was also a very dangerous place to work, and we were not armed.  At the time, the Black Market was in evidence everywhere.  They controlled the flow of tobacco, liquor and prostitutes from Russia.  I met many lovely locals, and I don't wish to impune the natives.  It was just a bad time to be there, I guess.  But it was an important place for the policymakers, and that is the point I am trying to make.  Normally the policymakers are interested in Baghdad and Kabul, as opposed to Paris and Rome.  Keep in mind that in the UK and South Africa, the steering wheel is on the other side, not to mention the driving lane is reversed as well.  You will drive all sorts of vehicles on all kinds of roads, and you won't complain.  As soon as you complain, God will take away your jittery little car and give you a moped to drive to work (Kathmandu?).  You will also have to fly all over the place, and if you are PCS'd in Africa, you may end up on "Benson Loves You Airlines", as I did one day flying out of Lagos.

If you are giving this profession serious consideration, you must play well with others.  Your colleagues may be the only people who speak English for hundreds of miles.  You cannot afford to be petty or overly sensitive.  We have become such a whiney society.  Well, leave that shit behind, because no one wants to hear it and you will quickly earn a reputation.  And if someone has the impression that this job will get you laid in all the major cities of the world, you are mistaken.  There is no quicker way to get in trouble then by letting your libido out of its cage.  The opportunity to live in a foreign country comes with great responsibility.  Have some familiarity with the customs before you step off of the plane.  Learn about the host country, and the locals will respect you for you effort.  You will be obliged to depend on your fellow officers, and they will need your help as well.  You will make friendships stronger than you thought possible.  If you are a loner, and avoid having to work with others, find another job.  Many times you will be working alone, but if 9/11 taught us anything, we must work together in times of national crisis.  And last, but certainly not least, learn a foreign language.  I don't think it really makes a difference if your college degree is in political science or proctology because the Agency will teach you all the important stuff.  But having a language beforehand makes you valuable from the get-go.  I always recommend Arabic and Chinese (I know, I'm brilliant), but French is always handy.  I can't imagine finding someone on this planet who doesn't speak either French or English (outside of Asia, folks).  Not only does the language skill make you a more attractive hire, it pays more as well.   

No comments:

Post a Comment