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86

SEPTEMBER 2017

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

AFSA NEWS

AFSA EXEMPLARY PERFORMANCE AWARDS

AFSAAward Runners-Up

MARK PALMER AWARD RUNNER - UP

MARIA BARRÓN

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

state.

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-

affected districts.

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

MICHAEL MURPHY

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-

munity.

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

JUDITH BROWN

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

Yaoundé.

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.

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