If anyone knows how to pack efficiently, it’s a U.S. Department of State diplomatic courier. Couriers spend thousands of hours each year traveling by planes, trains, ships, automobiles, and other modes of transportation to deliver classified and sensitive materials to the 275 U.S. Department of State missions around the globe.
So what do they travel with? Diplomatic Courier Brian Crawford, currently working out of the diplomatic courier hub at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, emptied his carry-on – a backpack – to give us a peek.
1. Diplomatic Courier badge and official letter
The badge and the diplomatic courier letter, which is signed by the U.S. secretary of state, lets immigration, customs, and security officials, airline personnel, and others know that diplomatic couriers are on official U.S. business and expect foreign officials to adhere to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.
2. Six U.S. diplomatic passports
You should only have one passport in your bag – that is, unless you are a diplomatic courier. Because they travel so often, their passport books fill up fast. Also, every passport is not always available as couriers constantly have to renew their visas. Brian carries six diplomatic passports, although the number varies courier to courier. Brian, like many of his colleagues, color-codes his passports so he can remember which books have which visas!
3. Money pouch
With eight different currencies tucked away in his money pouch, Brian is his own currency exchange booth! The Dakar and Abidjan diplomatic courier hubs service eighteen U.S. embassies and consulates in West Africa. Brian travels to an average of three different countries each week.
4. Tarmac supplies: Reflective vest, earplugs, rain poncho, zipties, pens
You’re on the tarmac and it’s pouring rain. Planes taking off and landing; luggage carts in and out. It’s loud! The diplomatic pouches arrive and boom! A tag breaks off or writing gets smudged. Then you have to sign documents in the wind and rain to confirm all diplomatic pouches arrived safely and securely. If you’re a diplomatic courier, you’ve got the proper gear to handle anything thrown your way!
5. Schedules and phone lists
We’ve all been there – our plane is delayed, a trip is canceled, and there is no cell phone service. Brian keeps a current, hard copy of the Dakar courier hub schedule with him at all times along with other phone numbers and required details.
We all know how hungry one can get while traveling and you never know when you might get stuck at an airport, on the runway, in a vehicle – wherever! Today, Brian has a mixed berries & nuts snack pack, three different types of tea, instant coffee and sugar packets, and Mentos.
7. Over-the-counter meds
Just like you may never know when you will get your next meal, you probably don’t know exactly what that meal will be. Brian makes sure to have Imodium and Ibuprofen at all times. Oh, and don’t forget the “refreshing wipes” and Kleenex!
8. Portable bed
Hopping time zones and countries can be exhausting. Brian always makes sure to have a sleep mask, pillow, socks, and slippers to help him catch a few Zzzs when he’s able to.
9. Smart phone and keys
10. Business cards
Brian is a popular guy. Walk through any airport in West Africa and you’ll see airline and airport officials striding toward Brian with a big smile and open arms. Just in case he meets someone new, Brian packs a few business cards.
Everyone needs shades, right? And Brian needs reading glasses for those numerous diplomatic pouch tags, schedules, and other documents!
12. Shoe horn
Yes, a shoe horn. “My feet swell on those planes!” said Brian. Fair enough.
13. Diplomatic courier brochure
Nope, it’s not staged. Brian carries a diplomatic courier brochure with him wherever he goes. Thanks for spreading the word, Brian!