COVID-19 Success Story: Caroline Manela, 2019 PMF
In February 2020, just a few months into my Department of State PMF experience, I arrived in Tokyo for my rotation in the U.S. Embassy’s Economic Section and was put to work immediately on the Embassy’s highest priority task: responding to the COVID-19 outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Within the first few hours of my first day at work, I began attending internal Mission-wide coordination and crisis management meetings. And within my first week, I had participated in multiple external meetings and helped facilitate communication between representatives of Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, Carnival Corporation, Princess Cruises, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all of whom were making their best efforts to care for those on board and prevent the spread of an almost completely unknown infectious disease. The Mission’s collective work that first week in Tokyo culminated in the voluntary evacuation and repatriation of over 300 U.S. Citizen passengers and their family members on board.
After the Diamond Princess repatriation efforts wound down, I spent the remainder of my four-month developmental assignment as a principal member of the Mission's COVID-19 Task Force, identifying and reporting regularly to leadership within the Embassy and back in D.C. on emerging COVID-19 issues and the Government of Japan’s response to the pandemic. Many of our reports were recognized by the Department’s East Asia Pacific Bureau, and some received broader readership outside of the Department, including the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Health and Human Services. For someone just learning how an Embassy operates, I could not have asked for a better assignment: our team worked regularly with the Consular and Public Affairs Sections on clearing external communication to American citizens in Japan, the Management section and the Regional Security Office on using Japan’s COVID-19 data to inform decisions on Mission posture, and other sections and U.S. consulates around Japan on producing our regular reports.
Now back at my home office in D.C., I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to jump into high-profile and meaningful work at the Embassy from the very first day of my rotation, supported by a team of talented and motivated American and Japanese colleagues. Wherever the PMF program next takes me next, I look forward to bringing these new experiences and an increased confidence in my ability to serve during an unprecedented crisis.