Story of Diplomacy
Despite their training for a variety of pandemic scenarios, Consulate General Wuhan staff was shocked by how rapidly the disease spread throughout urban areas.
Our nation’s diplomats are serving on the front lines of the global COVID-19 pandemic as international first responders, as they have for 200 years. Their priority is to protect American citizens abroad during crises and bring them home or repatriate them if needed. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo initiated the social media hashtag #AmericansHome to signal his support for these heroic behind-the-scenes efforts. As of June 1, 2020, the State Department has repatriated more than 98,000 American citizens during the pandemic.
When Cameroon’s borders closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Embassy Yaounde‘s General Services Officer was unable to return to post after a trip to the United States. The urgent task of managing the complex local logistics for all of the repatriation flights for Americans leaving Cameroon fell to Jason Rubin, the Assistant General Services Officer at the embassy. Jason arranged for private chartered flights as well as a Department of State-chartered cargo plane to bring Americans in Cameroon home. He also implemented a system for processing the passengers as they arrived at the airport. This included checking in every passenger with required paperwork prior to boarding and advocating for any special needs, such as wheelchairs and service animals.
As passengers were preparing to board the repatriation flight out of Cameroon on April 24, 2020, Jason employed his French language skills and problem-solving abilities. He communicated with the airport’s ground crew regarding the equipment needed to service the 747 cargo plane as well as the proper storage of meals for the passengers during the long overseas flight to Dulles Airport in Virginia.
Prior to joining the Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer, Jason served for over 20 years in the Marine Corps. His experience working on repatriating Americans during the pandemic – and seeing the relief in their eyes as they got on the plane – has been an incredibly rewarding and impactful moment in his career.