THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
AFSA EXEMPLARY PERFORMANCE AWARDS
MARK PALMER AWARD RUNNER - UP
At the start of Maria Barrón’s posting to Embassy
Kathmandu in 2011 as the director of USAID
Mission Nepal’s Democracy and Governance
Office, the country’s political leaders signed an
agreement that furthered the peace process
begun five years earlier which had ended a decade
of civil war and stalled development. The new
agreement called for reintegrating Maoist combatants, drafting
a new constitution, holding new elections and restructuring the
Ms. Barrón played an instrumental role in interpreting the
opaque political landscape and advising where U.S. involve-
ment could best help achieve the peace process milestones.
Ms. Barrón’s insight and ability to quickly reorient pro-
gramming enabled the U.S. government to take advantage of
new opportunities. With the support of her team, Ms. Bar-
rón managed a complex portfolio of programs that have had
tangible and far-reaching impact, such as the reintegration
of nearly 20,000 Maoists into society and assistance in the
November 2013 elections.
Following the earthquakes in 2015, Ms. Barrón also cre-
atively expanded Embassy Kathmandu’s counter-trafficking
in persons and local governance programs into the most-
Ms. Barrón skillfully guided and shaped U.S. foreign policy,
married development and diplomacy skills, and navigated the
complex political structures to support Nepal through a defin-
ing moment in its history. Ms. Barrón’s previous posts include
USAID missions in Afghanistan and Mexico.
M. JUAN I TA GUESS AWARD RUNNER - UP
In the last two years, U.S. Embassy Algiers has
undergone a massive transition from a hard-to-
fill post to one that is family-friendly, brimming
with community and cultural activities. Com-
munity Liaison Officer Mike Murphy led the
wave of change, demonstrating extraordinary
leadership as the embassy transformed itself.
An unaccompanied posting for many years due to terrorist
threats, Embassy Algiers had no resources in place to support
families. Mr. Murphy improved the embassy’s approach to
community support, from sourcing baby supplies to recruiting
English speaking nannies. He researched local preschools and
organized a playgroup for children from the diplomatic com-
With tight security restrictions still in place, Mr. Murphy
persuaded members of the community to contribute to its
social activities. Thanks to him, embassy community mem-
bers now volunteer to lead salsa lessons, crossfit workouts,
cooking lessons and other activities. He also established a
wellness committee to address morale concerns.
Algiers was one of the few posts without a video in the
Overseas Briefing Center, so Mr. Murphy developed one,
showing the joys and challenges of living in Algeria. Several
new arrivals stated that the video had persuaded them to bid
on a post they might never have considered otherwise.
Mr. Murphy is an eligible family member married to Carolyn
S. Murphy and has previously been posted to the U.S. Mission
to NATO. Prior to that, he served for 22 years as U.S. Army offi-
cer, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2013.
NELSON B. DELAVAN AWARD RUNNER-UP
While the Republic of Cameroon fought Boko
Haram militants in the Lake Chad Basin region,
Judith Brown served with great distinction
as office management specialist (OMS) to
the chief of mission (COM) at U.S. Embassy
As U.S. security assistance increased in Cameroon, and
with the everyday work of promoting security and good
governance, managing pandemic health risks and promoting
private sector investment, the pace of the front office became
frenetic. But Ms. Brown “brought Zen calm” to the chaos,
according to her nomination.
Arriving as the political-economic OMS, Ms. Brown stepped
into the role of COM OMS following a sudden retirement.When
staffing gaps left Ms. Brown as the sole OMS at post for several
months, she quickly adapted, transforming the front office from
a place of tension and drama to a place people enjoyed visiting.
In addition to her regular duties, Ms. Brown chairs the
Interagency Housing Board, ensuring fairness to the point
that not a single appeal has been raised to the front-office
level during her tenure. Though it is unusual for a second-
tour OMS to chair the IAHB, Ms. Brown’s position reflects the
broad respect she commands across all sections and agen-
cies at post.