CAMP MURRAY, Wash. – Helping servicemembers navigate Malaysian customs processes and meeting with high-ranking military officers and government officials is all in a day's work for Maj. Chyteira Dues, Washington National Guard Malaysian Bilateral Affairs Officer.
In 2018 Dues was selected as the Washington National Guard's first-ever Malaysia BAO.
"It [BAO position] was created to be able to better manage, coordinate and facilitate the various security cooperation activities that take place under the State Partnership Program agreement," Dues said.
The Washington National Guard and Malaysia entered into a formal partnership in August 2017 under the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program. Through the SPP, a state's National Guard is linked with the armed forces of their partner nation in order to enhance their capabilities and security cooperation.
Dues provides a continuous link and communication line between the Washington National Guard and Malaysian Armed Forces. She also coordinates with numerous other government agencies.
"The BAO can have tremendous impact through building relationships with many stakeholders; the Embassy and Office of Defense Cooperation staffs, the Malaysian Armed Forces leadership, the Washington National Guard leadership, and Indo-PACOM action officers," said Brig. Gen. Jeremy Horn, commander of the Washington Air National Guard. "Chyteira has reached out to all, helped us coordinate our efforts, and opened doors for future engagement."
Strong relationships and the ability to effectively communicate are necessary for a successful state partnership. Dues discovered this first hand when she served as the action officer for Horn during his attendance at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition in Malaysia March 2019.
There she sat in on high-level engagements, which she said was both eye-opening and inspiring.
"I saw so many times in which the key to continuing this critical and growing relationship between Malaysia rested directly at the core of what Washington National Guard is able to do: provide enduring partnerships that extend beyond the transactional, tactical, and operational elements of the relationship that our active duty counterparts are so good at providing."
Horn was impressed with Dues's organization and noted that she made sure they maximized their time at LIMA by engaging influencers at every possible opportunity. "I knew she had been hard at work building relationships when I'd see a Malaysian 3- or 4-star general's face light up when he saw her," he said.
First and foremost, Malaysian senior leaders want to create friendships beyond the standard exercises and subject matter expert exchanges, according to Dues. They feel that a strong relationship foundation will pave the way for a successful partnership where they can share common experiences, learn from one another, and work together to make sure neither country repeats the mistakes of the other.
Making lifelong friends has been one of Dues's favorite aspects of the job.
"One of the highlights of my work here in Malaysia as the BAO has been the opportunity to interact with and learn about the Malaysian people on a very personal level that has allowed me to build friendships that will last long beyond my three-year tour here," she said. "Seeing new friendships form and new ideas for future engagements flourish through the existence of these friendship has been one of the best highlights of my time here as the BAO so far."
Dues's extensive experience in fields requiring strong communication skills makes her remarkably well suited for the BAO position.
Prior to being selected as the BAO, she served as the 194th Wing's Director of Equal Opportunity and Chief of Public Affairs. She also served in the active duty Air Force as a U.S. Military Academy instructor and contracting officer.
As a civilian, Dues worked as a kindergarten teacher in Spanaway, Washington and a university English language instructor in Colombia. Her resume reflects a desire to connect with people and make a positive impact on people's lives.
With her diverse work experience, strong communication skills, and willingness to travel and learn about other cultures, Dues knew it was an amazing opportunity when she read the BAO job announcement.
"This position is one that not only allows a Guardsman to broaden his or her career within the Guard but it also provides the opportunity to explore areas of defense cooperation in a very direct way that is very difficult to do as a traditional Guardsman," she said.
Leaders from the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, saw the importance of the BAO program and implemented initiatives that will certify Guard members as Foreign Area Officers, which opens opportunities that would otherwise remain difficult for Guard members to pursue, Dues said.
Based on her inspiring experiences in Malaysia, coupled with the new SAF/IA initiatives, she now aims to continue her service in the National Guard as a certified FAO.
According to Horn, Washington National Guard leaders are hoping that a Thailand BAO position will become a reality as well; Thailand is the Washington National Guard's other SPP partner.
"We're already looking for Washington Guardsmen (O-4) with a sense of adventure—talk to your leadership if that's something you might be interested in," Horn said.