The Author’s Message

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” ― Rudyard Kipling FOREIGN SERVICES MESSAGES embraces Rudyard Kipling’s words through a series of stories, articles, and anecdotes centered around the author’s working life that paralleled two related phenomenon, which have shaped American life from then until now. The Pioneering Age…

American Embassy Cairo | The Shepheard’s Hotel Bar

Early November 1977 It was Thursday, the day before my departure to Athens. CRO Holman called early and put the kibosh on my visit to the pyramids in Giza. He requested that I return to the residence of Cleopatra (the call sign for a gorgeous USAID worker named Miss Lewis). A driver and an Egyptian…

American Embassy Cairo | “Takin’ Care of Business”

Early November 1977 Wednesday at lunch CRO Holman rose and shook my hand at the embassy café. “Big improvement in the radio test,” He said. “We added four personnel from Maadi who weren’t able to reach the embassy previously. Zamalek personnel were loud and clear. Our crypto tech Bill lives over there.” “Zamalek?” It’s an…

American Embassy Cairo | Aftermath of the Khamsin

Early November 1977 After I got off the windswept Chancery roof I wrapped my face in linen à la T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and raced across the street to the guesthouse. To get to the upper floor I had to enter an ancient cage-like elevator, the type that I didn’t know still existed. I shut the…

American Embassy Cairo | The Many Shades of Beige

Early November 1977 Bill the crypto tech was a breath of fresh air within Am Embassy Cairo’s clouded atmosphere. He took me to lunch at the very small embassy café that out of necessity featured outdoor seating. I had “The Special,” some kind of kebabs with a salad and hummus. It wasn’t bad. <feature photo…

Cairo Arrival | Shadows of the Past

Cairo International Airport | Early November 1977 The Pakistani Airlines flight made its final approach to the runway. I was in an aisle seat that didn’t afford a good glimpse of the pyramids. How ironic that my first trip from RCO Karachi would be Am Embassy Cairo, where my predecessor Charles A. had gotten on…

FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO IMMEDIATE

American Consulate General | Early November 1977 When RCO Roberson called me into his office at Am Consul Karachi Tuesday morning, I had a sinking feeling. Joe, the telephone lead tech had worked for Roberson in Jakarta. He told me that when “Bob” called you into his office it usually wasn’t to pat you on…

The Journal: CIA Deception or Hoax?

American Consulate General Karachi | Late October 1977 After spending the day cleaning up the radio shop at the Con Gen I dragged into my Clifton apartment with the JOURNAL on my mind. The odor of Basheer’s baked chicken with potatoes and vegetables was a welcome alternative to the dank, rancid radio shop floor. <feature…

Weekend Warriors | Buried Treasure

American Consulate General Karachi | Late October 1977 The two weekend warriors arrived at the Con Gen a little after eight a.m. on Friday, the first day of Am Consul Karachi’s weekend. The MSG Corporal escorted us up to the RCO office. With no one around the RCO tech offices loomed eerily quiet. Al fired…

Security Violation | Get Smart

American Consulate General Karachi | Late October 1977 The next morning I was eager to tackle the RCO radio shop. Al and I planned to change into old jeans and T-shirts. Al opened the cypher lock on the door into the tech offices without looking. He turned left to the radio section. The telephone and…

Foreign Service Ambiguities | Change of Plans

American Consulate General | Late October 1977 Al was very punctual when it came time to leave to work from the Clifton apartment building. At 0745 hours he had his Toyota Corolla warmed up in the driveway and the guard had opened the gate. Directly in front of us sitting on the lawn in a…

The Six Million Dollar Man Bites the Dust in Karachi

American Consulate General | Late October 1977 Al’s Thai girlfriend Sue made Thai food for dinner that evening after work at the Clifton Apartments. Sue, quiet and pleasant, called the noodle dish Pad Thai. After I commented how delicious the noodles were she immediately asked me if I was single or married. Al laughed it…

American Consulate General Karachi | The RCO

Late October 1977 When General Zia al-Huq had recently deposed Ali Bhutto’s liberal government during a military coup d’état he declared that Pakistan would return to traditional conservative Sunni Muslim values. The transfer of power did not hinder the operations of Am Consul Karachi’s Regional Communications Office. Because the RCO’s mission was to support the other…

The Consulate General | Chili Beans in Karachi

The American Consulate General | Late October 1977 I worked at the consulate of the highest rank, the American Consulate General in the largest city of Pakistan, the port city of Karachi. Consulate Generals normally served large cities in terms of bilateral relations with the United States (commerce, travel, etc.). <featured photo by pinterest.com My…

The American Consulate General Karachi | Inshallah

Late October 1977 Prior to leaving SECSTATE in Washington D.C. to Pakistan, I had attended a mandatory “in-country” security briefing, and an anti-terrorism symposium. The experts had stressed that Foreign Service Officers abroad should always change daily routes—never repeat. They instructed how to recognize when you’re being followed and what actions to take <feature photo…

Karachi, Pakistan | Echoes of the British Empire

Late October 1977 At half past midnight, the Pakistani Airlines flight rumbled to a halt out on the warm tarmac, inherited from forty-two degrees Centigrade of an overbearing sun. The passengers, mostly Pakistanis, ignored the cabin crew’s instructions to remain seated. Overhead compartment doors plopped down like camels’ saddlebags full of brass asps. <feature photo…

Leaving on a Jet Plane

October 1977 After a year in Northern Virginia learning the basics of my job as a radio technician/diplomat for the Office of Communications/Programs & Engineering (OC/PE) I was ready to move on.  I had checked off the 60% part of my mentor Norm Bates’ “60/40 Hypothesis:” Completed technical schools Supported SY (State Department Security) Protective Details…

The Send Off | Haitian War Story

In October of 1977, the “OC Bandits” (inspired by the movie “Smokey and the Bandits”) gave me a send off regarding my impending assignment at Am Consul Karachi, Pakistan. The radio group chose the pizza restaurant near Springfield, Virginia to allow our boss Norm Bates to call his wife when his gout flared up. I could…

Asmara Redux | Senza Fine

The Antebellum Margaret Mitchell’s novel “Gone With The Wind,” and the subsequent movie captured the soul of the American South before the “Antebellum,” the onslaught of the Civil War in the 1862. The Confederate Army sacrificed thousands of lives before the Union, under President Abraham Lincoln eventually swept the Old South away. Asmara, Ethiopia experienced a…

Massawa, Ethiopia | Down the Escarpment and Into the Kasbah (Part Two)

My excursion from Kagnew Station Asmara, Ethiopia down the mountain on the escarpment road had endured harrowing hairpin turns, misguided camels, and passenger Eric hurling fresh oranges at anything that moved, including baboons. However, negotiating the winding road was harmless compared to my initiation into Massawa’s strange inner sanctum… For the past few hours we sat at…

Massawa, Ethiopia | Down the Escarpment & Into the Kasbah (Part One)

All personnel assigned to Kagnew Station, Asmara, Ethiopia yearned for the adventure down the escarpment road to the port of Massawa on the Red Sea. However, the road was often closed to military personnel due to “Shifta” bandit or Eritrean Liberation Front separatist activity in the area. In the spring of 1971, the Kagnew brass had…

Once Upon a Time in Ethiopia (Part Two)

In 1971 Kagnew Station Asmara, Ethiopia thrived despite its location thousands of miles distant from other military posts overseas. Kagnew depended solely on the welcome of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie who had ruled the country for forty-some years against much opposition both within the Ethiopia government and outside powers. Consequently, the military kept a low…

Once Upon a Time in Ethiopia (Part One)

In 1971, if I were to have written a fictional account of Kagnew Station, Asmara, Ethiopia it might have begun… “Once upon a time on an island above the clouds in a land far, far away…” After seven months into my assignment at the U.S. Army installation at Kagnew Station, Asmara, Ethiopia the rest of…

Three Black Kings | The Greatest, The Conquering Lion, and The Genius

During the 1960’s and ‘70’s decades three famous black men helped me make difficult life decisions. Getting help from a trio of black men may sound odd coming from a middle class Caucasian guy. I grew up in a white family transplanted from Missouri to Southern California via short detours to Detroit and San Antonio….

Kagnew Station, Asmara, Ethiopia | One Hell of a Remote Place

“I do not believe we have a more remote station of our armed forces than Kagnew Station in Asmara, Ethiopia.”  —U.S. Army General William Westmoreland <featured photo Kagnew Station by asalives.org August 1970 I had no idea what to expect. Before I left the 447th Battalion to Frankfurt Am Main Airport on reassignment my C.O….

1970 Flashback | Donnersberg, Germany | A Perilous Journey Down the Mountain

Company B, 447th Signal Battalion, Germany  <feature photo by usarmygermany.com The Company B, 447th Signal Battalion barracks lie hidden away at North Point, Kriegsfeld, just outside Kircheimbolanden, a quaint village in the Rhine Valley southwest of Frankfurt. It took a fifteen-kilometer winding drive in the back of a deuce-and-a-half (2 ½-ton) truck to reach my…

Planes, Trains and P.O.V.s (Privately Owned Vehicles)

“Big Ol Jet Airliner” Two more weeks and I’d be aboard a “Big Ol Jet Airliner” (Steve Miller Band) headed to Am Consul Karachi, Pakistan via a stopover in London. My first assignment in the Foreign Service. I walked into the lobby of The U.S. State Department. Probably my last visit for a couple of…

Middle East War Story Interrupted

Old Chinese saying: “As long as you’re planning a journey, you own the journey. The minute you embark on that journey, the journey owns you.” I unofficially embarked on my journey to Am Consul Karachi at the State Department cafeteria at 2:00 p.m. on a Friday, three weeks prior to my departure. My boss Norm…

The Aspen Detail | Home Leave in L.A.

In late September 1977, with my assignment to Karachi, Pakistan looming in the near future, the department approved a week of home leave to return to Southern California. When I arrived back at the radio shop in Springfield Norm Bates had handed me my official travel orders for my assignment at the Am Consul Karachi,…

Flashback | The Induction: “You’re in the Army Now!”

I never realized it during the journey, but my life has passed through a series of open gates. Although “open” the gates were guarded and required the right password or document for me to gain entry. Each gate led to a larger more sophisticated gate and outside the gate the environment became increasingly more foreign…

Personnel Notification | Be Careful What You Wish For

FAM 013.5-2 Foreign Service Personnel (Foreign Affairs Manual)  Under the Foreign Service Act, the Secretary of State administers and directs the Foreign Service and coordinates its activities with the needs of the Department and other agencies and consults with other agencies using the Foreign Service personnel system (USAID, Foreign Agricultural Service, Foreign Commercial Service) to…

Am Embassy Paris | In Support of the Cyrus Vance Protective Detail

While assigned to Springfield, Virginia awaiting our first assignment overseas, the most engaging task for the OC Bandits involved the support of the Office of Security or S.Y. protective details when the Secretary of State traveled on official business. Cyrus Vance took over for Henry Kissinger in 1977. During his tenure as Secretary of State…

Limited Official Use | Monkey Brains With Rice

The message I held in my hand confirmed my first overseas trip in support of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. The Secretary would attend the Conference on International Economic Development in Paris on May 28th. It was proof that I didn’t have much time—I’d better get my shit together. LIMITED OFFICIAL USE 250950Z MAY 77…

Special Agent Martin V

Someone said that the strength of the Foreign Service are its people. They come from all walks of life. Most follow the traditional path: a university degree with a major in political science, economics, and the like. To prepare for a Foreign Service career they might become an intern in Washington D.C. They might contact their congressmen for…

The Foreign Service | An Education of Sorts

  Back in the 1970’s, no one hired on with the U.S. Department of State to get rich. My base salary began at around $12,000 per year. I don’t recall many Foreign Service Officers owning homes given that they were out of the country most of their careers. Living overseas had its benefits. Housing was…

Foreign Service Telegram Speak and Related Illnesses

In the late 1970’s, the telegraphic message was to the Foreign Service like the M-16 rifle was to the U.S. Army. Both wielded a sense of diplomacy and every soldier (and Foreign Service Officer) was “behooved” to know how to use each. In the case of the telegraphic message, words replaced bullets, and could be…

SECSTATE | Telegraphic Messages

One of the jobs I learned early on with the Office of Communications during my domestic assignment at Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia was how to read and compose telegraphic messages. <feature photo by radioblvd.com All classified and unclassified telegraphic messages from U.S. missions (American embassies, consulates) worldwide terminated at the U.S. Department of State. The…

A Mystery Visitor | King Hussein of Jordan Detail (Part Two)

The King Hussein of Jordan security detail had been stricken by the reverence of the Magic Kingdom. The State Department Security agents–S.Y.–had already made up radio call signs for everyone. The agent-in-charge answered to Captain Hook. His cadre had taken the monikers of Blackbeard, Bluebeard, Cannonball, Peg Leg, and Gunpowder after they had visited the Pirates…

The King Hussein Protective Detail (Part One)

April 1977 King Hussein of Jordan could have qualified as the “the world’s most interesting man.” His Royal Highness knew how to connect to people at all levels. King Hussein, call sign “JY1,” was an amateur radio enthusiast. HAM radio operators around the world regarded him highly. The term most used to describe him was,…

The Pioneering Age of Radio & Security (Part Two)

Terrorism at 1972 Olympic XX Games On September 5th people worldwide enjoyed the 1972 Olympic XX Games on television until terror struck. Members of the group known as Black September stormed the living quarters of the Israel athletes in Munich. They kidnapped and killed eleven Israeli Olympic athletes and one German policeman. The Israel-Palestine conflict…