Army Functional Area 48: The Foreign Area Officer

If you’re serving as an Army Officer and are looking for an interesting functional area to serve in, you should really educate yourself about the functional area 48, the Foreign Area Officer.

According to one online resource I found, “a functional area is a grouping of officers by technical specialty or skill, which usually requires significant education, training and experience.”  Typically, you receive your functional area between your fifth and sixth year of service, normally after Company Command.

A Foreign Area Officer is a regionally focused expert on political-military operations in a specific region or country.  They have expertise such as political-military awareness, foreign language proficiency, and a strong background in the economic, social, cultural and political environment.  If I had to describe it on my own words, I would consider them a diplomat for the military.

Duties and Responsibilities

Some of their duties and responsibilities include:

  • Advising commanders and senior leaders on political-military operations
  • Provide cultural expertise
  • Build strong relationships with foreign leaders
  • Develop and coordinate security cooperation
  • Develop reports on diplomatic/military/economic activities

Army Foreign Area Officer Jobs

Some of the jobs you could have in this career field include:

  • Attaches
  • Plans and Policy Officers
  • Political and Cultural Advisors
  • Liaison
  • Service School Instructors
  • Security Assistance Officers
  • Political Military Operations

To the best of my knowledge there are no command opportunities in this functional area.

Regions and Geographic Areas

Depending on your area of expertise, you could have any of the following identifiers.

  • 48A General
  • 48B Latin America
  • 48C Europe
  • 48D Eurasia
  • 48F China
  • 48G Mideast/North Africa
  • 48H Northeast Asia
  • 48I Southeast Asia
  • 48J Africa, South of the Sahara

Reasons to Serve as an Army Foreign Area Officer

As I see it, there are several good reasons to serve in this functional area.  First of all, there is a great opportunity for travel.  There is a high likelihood you will spend most of your time in the country or region that you specialize in.

This is also a great career opportunity for someone who likes to be independent and work on their own.  Yes, you could still supervise someone and will still work closely with some soldiers and leaders, but you will get a lot of time on your own, and working with foreign politicians and leaders.

This is also a great functional area for anyone who has political aspirations.  You can learn how politics work, inside and outside of our country, improve your people skills, and get some political experience with diplomatic relations.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that the Foreign Area Officer (functional area 48) is a great career opportunity for the right Army Officer.  It might not be a good match for everyone, but if you like politics, culture, and traveling abroad, this would be a good match for you.

If you have experience serving in this functional area I would love to hear from you.  Please tell us where you went, what you did, what you liked and disliked about the experience and so forth.  Just leave a comment below to share your thoughts.


  • Army PAM 600-3-48
  • DA PAM 600-3
chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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5 thoughts on “Army Functional Area 48: The Foreign Area Officer”

  1. Wow, I have been associated with the military since the day I was born, and I did not realize that this job even existed. Clearly this calls for someone who understands both international relations and diplomacy. Yeah, you are right, there is a great opportunity for travel. But it is also an area where a screw-up could hurt a lot of people. And the line between success and screwing up is closely tied to your personality. I don’t think I would have the stomach for this one!

    1. I don’t think this functional area would be that bad. Most of the officers have a lot of experience and good training, so they are prepared for the job.

  2. I can see where this job would be a great opportunity for travel. I also see it as a high stress position. Does the person in this job have to know the language of the area they are taking? Learning new languages can be quite difficult, take it from someone who lives in a predominately Spanish speaking country. I have been here for several years and cannot get it. Well a few bad words, but for the most part I am dumbfounded.

      1. For anyone who is interested in a job such as this, and desires to learn a new language, I highly recommend the free website called DuoLingo. This site has helped me a lot in learning some Spanish. I know it covers Spanish, Italian, Portugese, French, German, Dutch, Irish, and Swedish.

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