Meet Your FAO Association Board Of Governors (BOG)
Editor's Note: From time to time the FAOA Journal is pleased to present an interview with a member of your Board of Governors (BOG) to provide insight into their background and motivation for joining the FAOA. We hope to not only provide more insight into the current membership and their goals for the organization, but to encourage new members to run and participate in the BOG too. In this edition, we meet one of the newest BoG members, Major Eric Hovey, U.S. Marine Corps.
What is your background?
I am an active duty Marine Corps intelligence officer and was selected to be an 8245 Africa FAO in December 2017. I completed my master's degree in regional security studies at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, followed by French at the Defense Language Institute, then completed one year of in-region training in Rabat, Morocco.
Before becoming a FAO, I was stationed with a USMC CH-46 helicopter squadron (HMM-265) in Okinawa, Japan; an infantry battalion in North Carolina (1st Bn, 8th Marines); and worked on UAV acquisitions within NAVAIR. I was fortunate to have varied and diverse opportunities to deploy with both air and ground units. In 2011, I deployed with HMM-265 to Atsugi, Japan where we supported relief operations following a massive earthquake off the coast of Sendai. That was also my first opportunity to see the intersection of DoD and diplomacy, since all our squadron’s flight operations required careful pre-coordination with the Japanese. I think a lot about my first deployment with 1st Bn, 8th Marines these days, because we were mostly in Romania, Bulgaria, and Norway as part of the “Black Sea Rotational Force” (BSRF). Our mission was predominantly theater security cooperation exercises with European partners and allies who were, understandably, wary of Russian aggression following the 2014 invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. I am glad that some of our Marines had the opportunity to train with the Ukrainians during that deployment and know that it was time well spent.
Currently, I am a student at the Joint Military Attaché School and am looking forward to my next assignment as the Marine Attaché to Liberia.
What got you interested in the FAO community?
The first time I remember hearing about FAOs was when I was stationed in Japan and a good friend told me about the program. He applied and became an 8242 Eurasia FAO. Years later, I caught up with him when I was deployed to Romania with BSRF in 2016 and he stopped by as part of his in-region training. I was impressed by his new-found Georgian fluency and, after the deployment, enjoyed hearing about his many travels throughout Eastern Europe. The opportunity to learn another language and work in impactful, interagency roles overseas seemed like an incredible opportunity.
What is a funny and/or embarrassing personal anecdote that FAOs would appreciate?
When I was stationed in Rabat, Ambassador David Fischer and Mrs. Jennifer Fischer graciously hosted a holiday party at their residence and invited everyone on post to attend. This was shortly after President Trump had recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara -- a seismic foreign policy shift for the region -- and so they were also quite busy managing the many inquiries and questions from the press. The Fischers greeted all their guests in the foyer and took pictures with them, both professionally and with personal phones. There was just one problem: I mistakenly grabbed Mrs. Fischer’s phone without realizing it, as we passed through.
Shortly thereafter, we were inside talking with friends and saw Mrs. Fischer’s assistant quickly making her way amongst the guests with a concerned look. She reached our group -- “Had we seen Mrs. Fischer’s phone, by chance, could we check?” I shook my head no, but then had a sinking feeling as my fingers touched the unfamiliar phone cover in my pocket and realized my mistake. Her assistant was as relieved as I was mortified! It is to the Ambassador and Mrs. Fischer’s great credit that they were gracious about the entire affair and went on to give a great press conference later that day.
Why did you want to join the BOG?
My biggest motivation for joining the BOG was to try to increase the advocacy for USMC FAOs. Unlike the Army, Navy, and Air Force, marines do not have a single-track FAO program, so FAOs often must do a challenging tap-dance between balancing key billets for their primary MOS monitor and the standard FAO track. This is not too hard for most intelligence officers, but many other talented Marines who are or would be great FAOs struggle to have the same balance. I believe that FAOs have an important role to play in engaging with U.S. partners and allies, worldwide, and ensuring access for the U.S. military. I want to ensure that FAOs in all branches can progress and contribute to meaningful U.S. missions, worldwide.
What are you reading right now?
I am reading In Extremis: the Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin. My brother, John, recommended it to me and it’s pretty riveting. Marie Colvin was an American journalist who covered conflicts across the world and was able to secure exclusive interviews with such polarizing figures as Yasser Arafat and Muammar Gaddafi. From a FAO standpoint, it is an interesting read because you realize that, as an American journalist, she was able to achieve a lot of access to foreign officials that would simply not be possible for government officials. In pre-Desert Storm Iraq, the U.S. deputy ambassador, Joe Wilson, evidently took advantage of Colvin’s insights to shape his cables back to Washington regarding Saddam’s intentions. While the focus is mainly on Colvin’s life, across highs and lows, there are still lots of good takeaways and insights for FAOs.
The author and his family pose in djellabas with their wonderful Moroccan nounou, Fatimah, at the conclusion of in-region training in 2021.