By Joshua Parker

Joshua Parker joined the U.S. Department of State in 2017 and serves as Diplomatic Technology Officer in Brussels, Belgium.

At the start of the new administration the newly appointed Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, decided to embark on a trip to Brussels, Belgium, to reaffirm the United States’ relationship with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and European Union.

When it was announced that he was coming to Brussels, it was expected that we—Information Resource Management—would have a role in supporting the usual communications demands for the Secretary’s team.  This would consist of ensuring the team was equipped with printers, computers, sim cards, and secure communication hardware.  All things I was very familiar with doing.

A week prior to the visit, I was asked by the Tri-Mission’s Minister Counselor to be the site-officer for the Secretary’s visit.  I agreed, but initially thought it was odd that I was being asked to support the visit and not my direct supervisor.  However, when it was clarified that the level of support would not be in an IT capacity but rather as the main POC for the visit, I was overcome with feelings of excitement and anxiousness.

As a DTO, I was going to be filling a role that a generalist—typically a senior rank officer—would perform.  I was responsible for drafting a proposal for the Secretary’s schedule that would map out each event during the visit.  In addition, I also had to work with all the major offices in the Tri-Mission to gather briefing notes for the Secretary.  These notes were to give the Secretary a better perspective on the Tri-Mission’s overall success and were to be used for the Meet and Greet.

For the Tri-Mission Meet and Greet, I coordinated with three different Missions and worked with the media section of U.S. NATO to schedule the hosting of the event. Due to restrictions on physical gatherings related to the COVID-19 pandemic, we opted to host a virtual Meet and Greet on the Zoom platform. As an added bonus, the Zoom platform allowed for the broadcast to be viewed by both Mission personnel and the local Press.

I solicited questions from Mission personnel for the Q&A portion of the Secretary’s Meet and Greet.  Once I tallied up all of the questions, I selected six questions that covered a wide range of topics which were then cleared and approved by Tri-Mission leadership and the Secretary’s team.   As the first virtual event of its kind in Brussels, I held several rehearsals with the questioners to ensure that everyone’s setup was operational and functional before the day of the event.

Lastly, I had the honor of introducing the Secretary to a live audience which consisted of Mission personnel, U.S. Press, and the Belgian Press.  In coordination with the Media Hub at U.S. NATO and the Event’s program manager, I prepared an outline that allowed for a seamless segue into my introduction for the Secretary.

The event was an overwhelming success and I was personally thanked by Secretary Blinken for all my efforts.