Volunteering for Tough Assignments, Risk Taking, Leads to Rewarding Career
Craig Lebamoff, ’89, is still on assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan, serving as special counsel/advisor to NATO Training Mission Afghanistan Commander LTG Kenneth Tovo, USA, and Afghan Interior Minister Mujtaba Patang. He recently responded to an IU McKinney student’s request for advice for securing a career in foreign service. He responded with an update on his current work in Afghanistan and some practical tips that can apply to all students interested in such a career path.
Lebamoff’s current project has included working with Afghan lawyers and two military JAG attorneys to craft a new criminal procedure code, police ethics code, and a police review board.
Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly visited recently, along with North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp, and were briefed by Lebamoff, among others. He told the senators about the efforts to professionalize the Afghan police and recruit more women.
His path to Afghanistan started well in advance of his taking the foreign service exam, Lebamoff says. He worked as a tax lawyer for Wolters Kluwer, and then Ernst & Young. He speaks Russian (Lebamoff’s parents are Macedonian) and that skill enabled him to work on many joint ventures in the former Soviet Union, he says.
“I believe I was successful in the foreign service exam process,” he says, “because I was more seasoned and professional and had already worked in difficult overseas situations in Kazakhstan, the Ukraine, etc.” Preparation for passing the foreign service exam also included “reading The Economist cover-to-cover every week, even the boring stories.”
Volunteering for the tough assignments and taking risks also has helped his foreign service career, Lebamoff says. Working in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Iraq helped him grow as an officer, and taking the risk of applying for and then accepting a Fulbright Fellowship are career moves he’s made that have been rewarding.
Lebamoff was awarded a Sir Ian Axford (Fulbright) Fellowship in Public Policy for 2012. He lived in Wellington, the New Zealand capital, and worked as an embedded attorney with the country’s security, intelligence, and police agencies. His assignment prior to that was in Baghdad, Iraq in 2011. He served at the U.S. Embassy and helped Iraqis who formerly served as translators for the U.S. military during the insurgency apply for and resettle into the U.S. as refugees. Lebamoff received the Department of Homeland Security's Director's Heritage Award for 2011 for his work in assisting Iraqi refugees in the Middle East.