Every Sunday all of the senior leadership of the US Embassy in Kabul has a country team meeting. This is standard at U.S. Embassies though the format may be different. Some front offices convene daily small country teams, or meet twice a week with the smaller group and then host a weekly "expanded country team." Because of the size of the embassy here (16 agencies, plus numerous smaller divisions within agencies that require a representative be present from that office, as well as representatives from many offices in the U.S. military) we fill every chair in our weekly meeting. In fact, we have a seating chart as even getting an invitation to country team can be hard.
Because it is a chance to brief our ambassadors, and some offices don't get to see them very much (not the case with me because of working in press, but if you handle, say, civil aviation, who knows how much face time you get!) it is critical to have a "seat at the table." Having a seat at the table is important because everyone needs buy-in and support from the front office to do their job. We can work away on the smaller issues on our own, meet with our counterparts at our level (the "working level") and make recommendations for policy, but giving our Ambassadors the big picture in front of the rest of the embassy country team is important too. For me, it gives me greater context on what the various offices are doing. I often end up stopping three or four section heads just to check in on something that may have a media component later. Not exciting stuff, but every little tidbit of information may inform something later in the day, week or month.
However, the most dififcult part of country team is how it begins. We start every country team by reading the names of every military member and civilian who was killed the previous week in Afghanistan. Sometimes it is just a few names, sometimes too many. One week, after an attack at the airport, the list was long, and people in the room knew some of the officers that were killed. It was tough. And every week it is the same thing. We give a moment of silence for those killed and commit to serving in their memory. But as I have been here longer, I am affected each time a little more. I know each name is a person - someone who has parents, kids, a spouse, friends, and I empathize with their loss.
It is a terrible roll call but an important one - because I would not want to write that it doesn't affect me, these names of people I never met. Because my year here has changed me- for the better or worse, time will tell, but I definitely have a lot to think about during that moment of silence.