In his first address to the Department of Defense, Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis stressed the importance of DoD and its ties to the intelligence community.
“Together with the intelligence community, we are the sentinels and guardians of our nation,” he said. “Our military must ensure that the president and our diplomats always negotiate from a position of strength. Global threats require a global response applying the full weight of our own and our allies’ power, allies who are also increasing their defense outlays.”
There are many ways to serve the nation, but one way most are unfamiliar with is the Defense Attaché Service (DAS). While serving in uniform overseas, enlisted from all services offer support to U.S. diplomats, DoD and the intelligence community.
DAS provides opportunities for enlisted service members to serve in diplomatic assignments at U.S. embassies located worldwide. Noncommissioned officers and petty officers selected for a DAS assignment become part of an elite group of specially trained personnel who represent the U.S. and DoD. They serve in a wide array of roles and responsibilities, such as operations coordinators and operations NCOs, which challenge the most talented and experienced enlisted professionals.
According to SMSgt Paul Shideler, who works in the Defense Attaché Office in Taipei, "my experience working in the Liaison Affairs section at the American Institute in Taiwan has afforded me the unique opportunity to personally interact with many senior level leaders that
shape U.S. national policy."
While working in a defense attaché office, these service members represent DoD to the host-nation government and military, assist and advise the U.S. ambassador on military matters, and coordinate other political-military actions within their area of responsibility. They serve as part of the embassy staff and contribute significantly to the U.S. diplomatic mission abroad. Noncommissioned officers and petty officers accepted into the program will gain valuable experience that can improve their skill set regardless of their background.
The Defense Attaché Office plays a vital role in supporting the U.S. interests. During a time of crisis or military contingency, the DAO is often at the center of the action. The men and women who have served in the DAS have reaped personal rewards rarely duplicated in any other part of the military service.
“My experience working in USDAO Yerevan has given me the opportunity to be the face of
the American Staff NCO for the Armenian military and set the example that shows NCO's lead from the front," said SSgt Robert Taylor, USMC.
A normal assignment in the DAS requires a four-year commitment. The first year is dedicated to preparation for assignment to a DAO. All service members are required to attend a 13-week course at the Joint Military Attaché School. Depending on an individual’s skill-set, language training, defensive driving, or a myriad of other courses may follow JMAS graduation.
How an attaché serves the last three years of their commitment depends on the DAO. DAS has locations with one, two, and three-year tours. Most will serve a three-year tour at one location, but others that serve in a one-year location may PCS to a two-year location as a follow on assignment (and vice-versa).
The DAS program is family friendly as well. The vast majority of the two-year, and all of the three-year tour locations, allow family members to PCS with the service member. Additionally, JMAS offers a spouse course, which provides spouse-specific training to prepare them for the pending assignment.
Below are some of the basic duties for noncommissioned officers or petty officers serving within the DAS.
Operations Coordinator (OPSCO)/Operations NCO (OPSNCO)
- Provide overall operational, financial, administrative, and logistical support to the DAO
- Provide day-to-day office management, including include the supervision of assigned NCOs, U.S. civilian employees, and locally employed staff as directed
- Program manager for the DAO budget and the disbursement of funds
- Drafting, implementing, and enforcing policy
- Primary action officer to the embassy and DIA mission support offices
- Program manager for counter-intelligence, personnel, information, and physical security programs
- Manage housing, motor pool, and property book programs
- Assist in planning and execution of special functions, ships and VIP visits
- Assist with coordination of U.S. military/civilian diplomatic aircraft landings and overflights
- Support to the Office of Security Cooperation
Skills recruited by the DAS
- Interest in foreign languages
- Interest in operating in austere environments under minimal supervision
- Gathering information and studying its meaning
- Ability to think, speak, and write clearly
- An outgoing personality and interpersonal skills
- Ability to foster good working relationships with local staff and host nation/U.S. government agencies
Serving in the DAS is an opportunity to perform a career-broadening assignment and gain exposure to a joint, interagency environment. Serving in a DAO provides the opportunity to perfect language skills and cultural knowledge while developing a new appreciation for the complexities of the international environment and foreign military doctrine. The vast majority of DAS service members become involved in the local culture and take pride in having the ability to influence peoples’ opinions and understanding of the U.S. and its policies.
Learn more about DIA’s attaché program here: www.dia.mil/Training/Joint-Military-Attache-School-JMAS/
Are you interested in serving in a uniquely challenging, specialized field? Want to make a difference in communities around the world? Visit the following service sites:
Marine Corps: http://www.hqmc.marines.mil/intelligence/Intel-OPS-PERS/Defense-Attache-Program/
Navy: http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers- npc/enlisted/detailing/shorespecialprograms/Pages/Embassy.aspx
Air Force: https://www.my.af.mil/gcss-af/USAF/content/attacheprogram