2009-04-19 13:00:00
Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

Nomination of Jeff Lodinsky for the 2009 Barbara M. Watson

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DE RUEHGB #1061/01 1091300
R 191300Z APR 09

Attention: Special Assistant Julie Ruterbories


E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Nomination of Jeff Lodinsky for the 2009 Barbara M. Watson


Attention: Special Assistant Julie Ruterbories


E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Nomination of Jeff Lodinsky for the 2009 Barbara M. Watson

1. Embassy Baghdad is proud to nominate Consul General Jeff
Lodinsky for the 2009 Barbara M. Watson Award. Jeff supervises one
of the most stressful, demanding and unusual Consular operations in
the world. Through his leadership in Baghdad, the diverse,
multi-national staff has achieved remarkable, even historic
milestones and bilateral breakthroughs: the resumption of student,
exchange visitor and almost all NIV processing for the first time
since 1991; the resumption of immigrant visa processing for the
first time in a generation; the first outreach trips across Iraq in
at least 30 years; extensive media outreach; the start of SIV
processing and the processing of thousands of Special Immigrant
Visas; the expansion of the Passport Agent Program; and the
processing of thousands of passports for our brave soldiers. Jeff
also set up a shuttle service for consular customer access into the
International Zone (unique in the world),negotiated an expansion of
visa reciprocity, secured Panel Physician contracts, maintained
compassionate lines of communication with hostage family members and
provided assistance to American citizens across war-torn Iraq.
Across all consular functions and in service to the largest U.S.
embassy in the world, Jeff led a section that, according to the
visiting OIG inspection team, "...successfully provides a wide range
of services while operating under conditions and challenges unlike
any other in the world...and this is a tribute to the enthusiastic
leadership of the consular chief."

2. Consular Baghdad took on greater importance as the embassy
begins to implement the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement
(SFA). Jeff and his staff worked in direct support of SFA
implementation; a key component of our emerging and maturing
bilateral relationship. Implementing the SFA has been accompanied
by a significant increase in bilateral coordination, and resultant
consular involvement, much of which is tied to SFA-related exchanges
and programs. With each visa representing an important bilateral
building block, Jeff regularly met with senior representatives of
Iraqi ministries and agencies to ensure the prompt handling of
diplomatic applications and the accurate completion of application
forms. Fully 95 percent of all Baghdad NIV applications require an

SAO and when worldwide SAO processing delays affected our cases,
Jeff drafted several front channel cables to inform the Department
of its impact and made the case for more equitable treatment of this
key strategic partner. He also worked with CA/VO/L/C to communicate
front office requests and to develop a high profile list ("the best
of all posts," according to L/C) to manage the crush of urgent
expedite requests. He drafted a series of position papers for the
SAORRB in which he recommended common-sense modifications to
outdated SAO tripwires. Jeff initiated intense negotiations with
the Government of Iraq to expand visa reciprocity and coordinated
the successful effort with CA/VO/F/P.

3. Diplomatic relations between the United States and Iraq were
suspended in 1991, and most consular services were still inactive
when Jeff came to post. Our diplomatic surge in Iraq was being
frustrated as applicants had to travel outside of Iraq to access
visa services--even our vulnerable interpreters and translators,
those most threatened by assassination and kidnapping. This journey
left several dead or wounded. Jeff was determined to introduce visa
services in Baghdad, but he faced some unique challenges. Given our
location within the tightly cordoned International Zone applicants
Qlocation within the tightly cordoned International Zone applicants
are unable to access the embassy. To resolve this problem, Jeff
convened a series of meetings with security representatives and the
U.S. military to come up with a viable access plan. Jeff created an
escorted, secure shuttle system to gather applicants at a military
checkpoint--this secure shuttle system is the first of its kind
anywhere in the world.

4. Iraq matters because it occupies a central role in the Arab
world. Our country's influence on future generations starts with
Iraqi students traveling to the U.S. to study. Iraq's "10,000
Student Scholarship Program" provided us with an opportunity to
demonstrate our commitment to the next generation of Iraqis.
Ambassador Crocker and I challenged Jeff and his team: find a way to
interview all students here in Baghdad. In August, months prior to
the official opening of the New Embassy Complex, a significant
moment in the embassy's post war history. Ambassador Crocker and
the Minister of Education cut the ribbon in the Consular Section, in
view of the international media, to inaugurate student visa
processing in Baghdad.

5. Since at least the 1980s, all IV applicants had to apply outside
Iraq at regional embassies. Jeff was determined to implement SIV/IV
processing in a coherent, methodical but safe manner. He assembled
his consular team to map out a strategy and worked seamlessly with
NVC, CA/VO/L/P and Embassy Amman. We now have the capacity to
process up to 7,000 primary applicants per year. In February 2009 we
reached an important milestone when we commenced regular immigrant
and diversity visa processing in Baghdad for the first time in a

6. Jeff and his staff soon found themselves confronting other
challenges. The number of Americans returning to a more stable Iraq
increased dramatically, and with them came complex child abduction
cases, arrests, kidnappings and, tragically, deaths. The number of
American civilians who die in Iraq is in the double digits. Jeff
recognized that our ability to assist American citizens was not
sufficient. Jeff identified several officers stationed at PRTs to
act as "consular first responders." He worked with

HR/CDA/SL/PAS/T&R and CA/EX/PAS to secure Consular Titles to perform
basic emergency services.

7. Every week brings a new ACS challenge. In order to resolve a
complex child abduction case in Basra, Jeff asked an officer there
to meet with the abducting parent and eventually escort the child to
Kuwait. A/S Janice Jacobs praised this coordination as an example of
"tireless support to reunite a mother and daughter." As lead State
representative on the Hostage Affairs Working Group Jeff regularly
spoke with family members of American hostages. In heartbreaking
conversations, Jeff communicated our commitment never to give up the
search for their loved ones. Jeff met with American citizens at the
Iranian refugee camp at Ashraf to ensure they were provided with
direct consular assistance and the option to depart Iraq. He also
led an effort to train and authorize military attorneys to accept
passport applications on the battlefield so that soldiers do not
have to travel to Baghdad.

8. Consular work is incomplete if practiced only within bunkered
security walls. Jeff organized the first-ever outreach by an
American consul to the Kurdistan Region and Tikrit. His
high-profile meetings with hundreds of students, educational and
business leaders, college faculty, the sizable American citizen
community and the media underscored Embassy Baghdad's commitment to
this politically sensitive region. The RRT team leader wrote to
say, "Thank Jeff for being willing to come north and meet with
people face-to-face. His example set the right tone for his staff.
Following his lead, Jeff's consular officers embarked on outreach
trips to Hillah, Camp Victory and have planned trips across the
country. Jeff met with virtually every Iraqi news outlet during his
tenure, speaking authoritatively and persuasively on a range of
consular issues.

9. Empowering a largely entry-level staff to take ownership of
initiatives was critical to the consular section's success. Jeff
kept me informed and then gave his staff the authority to take the
initiative. The OIG wrote, "Section morale is much higher than
expected and this is a tribute to the enthusiastic leadership of the
consular chief...the staff conduct their business with an amazing
sense of 'can do' and team spirit." Jeff instituted a scheduled
training period, mentored the all-ELO staff and then ensured their
emotional needs were addressed by asking post's Mental Health
Practitioner to visit the section for a group consultation. His LES
staff, most of whom were TDY on loan from around the world, were
sharply focused, enthusiastic and innovative-a tribute to Jeff's
leadership and managerial style. Citation: "For his leadership in
mentoring his all entry-level officer corps, reestablishing a
functioning, full-service consular section at Embassy Baghdad and
for providing critical assistance to the American forces stationed
in Iraq and to the American citizen community."