Really more of a humor (I hope) in uniform kind of post.
As many/most/all of you should know by now, I spent the last half of the ’90s and pretty much right up until 9/11 fighting the so called “War on Drugs.” Without that experience I would have been a whole ‘nother ST (truth be known, that is when I got the Simon Templar moniker — don’t ask), but those ~6 years almost did not happen that way.
I was new to the Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (Bn), having recently transferred from a “leg battalion,” and was on one of my first field training events with them. We must have had some downtime and I was shooting the breeze with our Bn S-2 (Intel Officer) when he said, “Simon, you are a FAO (pronounced fay-O; Foreign Area Officer).”
Having no idea what he was talking about, I asked him what a FAO is. He explained and told me to take the Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT) for Spanish, and if I scored 2/2 or better I could apply to be designated as a FAO via the “experience track.” I took the test and maxed it — oorah: 3/3. Then my S-2 helped me to complete an Administrative Action (AA) form to explain why my experiences to date already qualified me to be a USMC FAO: Latin America without the necessity of any additional training (read “dollars”).
We sent that AA form in with my DLPT score and the response from Big USMC was, “Lt. McTemplar, you are now a FAO.” Operation JUST CAUSE, one Persian Gulf campaign later, and a wake-up, and I found myself trying to grow black pepper on a snake farm in Costa Rica. Having never done a [redacted] thing with that FAO “thing.”
I retread back into the Marines some years later as a Captain with the specific intent Big USMC putting me into the JPAT in Peru as the Riverine Counterdrug Officer. The rest, my gentle reader, is history — as they say.