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I've been a plans Officer for the United States Army Reserve since 2021. People have no clue what reservists do and much less what "Active Guard Reserve" Soldiers do, and I see it's Career Week, so here's my job. Also I'm shamelessly stealing Lizkas format, so thank her for me writing this. 

Note that anything written here is my opinion and does not represent the department of defense, or any US Government agency.

My background & how I got here

I studied Computer Science in college and graduate into the great recession of 2008. After not getting the exact job I wanted (Marine Officer), I went to the Army recruiter and they gave me the option to be an Army Reserve Quartermaster Officer. I wanted something more active, but since Officer Candidate School was very competitive I wasn't in the top. 

I served part time as a Platoon Leader, Company Commander and Company Executive Officer.  I interviewed with a different unit to change my branch to Civil Affairs, transferred to the  unit and then served there as a Battalion Logistics Officer (S4) until I got called to go to first deploy, then school.  My small school team of four Captains placed in the top six(Commandants List) of our approximately 60 person class and I was a Civil Affairs(CA) Officer after about 8 years. I credit my time working alongside CA officers as a large part of how well I did. 

At the same time I worked as a state department contractor full time. I also was going through Nursing school for most of it, though I didn't make it through.

During my deployment, I was always trying to quantify how much we were doing and I had problems doing so. I read books like Dead Aid and Toxic Charity, trying to get a sense of how to 'do international development' and 'foreign aid'. You might think that this is why I joined EA. 


My writing partner made me read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality and then, yes you can guess the rest. I got picked up for a 3 year tour of AGR and decided to put my civilian career on hold and see if I liked it.

What I actually work on

There is a very specific scope of things that only I do, mostly long range planning, facilitation, writing policy and working on strategy/prioritization for my organization. This includes everything that is mandated for the unit I work for to do to what is directed at a local level for us to do. Most of my work is office work, over various lovely software, and some of it is field work.

Here is what I do normally:

-Field questions from people inside the unit

-Answer Requests for Information (RFIs) from higher echelons or sister units

-Write Operations Orders and iron out short term plans

-Be the telephone between two organizations that need to talk.

I also run several meetings that are ad hoc or weekly dependent. I've had to work with a lot of people and I have met so many good people. It's not EA, but they all want to make a difference.

Reflecting on the Role

I opted into a very specialized career field in an already specialized group. I love the people and the unit culture is great, but they ask a lot of the part timers.

Some things I value:

-I'm expected to work independently. 

-If the work is done, then it's done. I'm not waiting around for someone's input normally.

-I get to work with top performers regularly.

-I get to mentor a lot of junior Officers and Enlisted, which is a big draw.

Some things that can be hard:

-I'm not in charge, I just work here. Even though I plan a lot in advance, sometimes the commanders will choose to take a different path, upending a lot of my work.

-There's a lot of things that need to be on a regulatory timeline that I can not change. This is fine, except when people try to get around it.

Some Skills I develop in this job:

-Language Skills. I learned enough Spanish on the job for my Spanish to be better than my French. I've had six years of French.

-Project Management. Everything is a project.

-Planning Skills. It's the job.

-Operations Skills. When my boss isn't here, I have to run the show.

This post is part of the September 2023 Career Conversations Week. You can see other Career Conversations Week posts here.





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Do you have any thoughts on how you could apply the skills and career capital you've acquired towards EA causes?

Yes, since the other half of what I do is operations. My understanding at least from the requests from the High Performance Network is that this is an in demand skillset.

I've also spoken to a few people on interview about how to effectively work in Africa, or at the very least how to get to a place where you can do a trial project. I wouldn't be in EA if I didn't want to help people, I just wish we were a bit more effective at it as a government. 

For instance: there's been times when Teams I've trained have the skills but not the funding to do something that the host nation needs, whereas the Italian Civil Affairs or CIMIC team had the funding so we just asked them if they wanted it.

First of all, I really love this post. The Ukraine War has been a powerful remainder of how important is the role of the United States in both defending democracy and the fellow democratic countries. 

The core of consequentialism is to think about counter factuals, and nothing is more enligthening than thinking about the alternatives to American Hegemony, which is also the enabler of economic globalization.

So, in my view, all people (Americans and allies) working to keep American Hegemony/Pax Democratica world order are at the very top of people doing good in the world, and only some scientists are at the same level.

Thank you very much.

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