The King Hussein Protective Detail (Part One)

April 1977

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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, “A wonderful guy.”

King Hussein flew his own jet airliner… He collected motorcycles, including a Harley-Davidson… He loved to water ski… He treated the U.S. Department of State security, S.Y., protective detail with utmost respect… And, apparently, he was a lady’s man…

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S.Y Protective Detail: King Hussein’s Visit to Florida

When our radio technical supervisor Norm Bates notified me that I would support the visiting dignitary it brought back memories of my high school graduation back in ’67. A fellow student named Dagmar had transferred to our high school in her junior year after her family had escaped over (or under?) the Berlin Wall. While we stood in line for grad rehearsal Dagmar had chastised me for my ignorance of the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War, occurring at the time. I later learned that King Hussein played a significant role in the war (read message: High School Graduation Interrupted By “Six-Day Arab-Israeli War”).

After we reviewed the radio equipment required for the visit, Norm did his customary grin thing and said, “If King Hussein offers you coffee or tea, don’t refuse.”

I felt better now that Norm Bates had briefed me on the detail.


I met up with State Department security, S.Y., at a resort hotel in Orlando, Florida. The Agent in Charge, A.I.C., was an ex-police chief from Florida. He told me we had less than forty-eight hours to set up radio commo and complete the security advance work around Disney World before King Hussein’s arrival.

I felt like part of the team. This A.I.C. was much more the policeman than the government agent type S.Y. personnel I had previously encountered. He was very direct and very much to the point. I had immediately been put on notice that the A.I.C.’s expectations for radio coverage were very high. The success of a detail often depended on how well the agents could communicate. I began to wonder if there had been some type of threat against the King.

From Disney World to Cypress Gardens

The A.I.C. surprised me when he got two beers out of the mini-fridge and handed me one. Over the next hour he briefed me on both King Hussein and the scope of the detail. He mentioned that the King might have a “companion” during his Disney World stay in Orlando. It turned out that after Disney World we were heading to Cypress Gardens by motorcade. The kicker was that the A.I.C. requested that I turn in my car rental and ride in the backseat with him in the S.Y. vehicle. My importance to the detail had jumped up a few notches. Why? I wasn’t sure if I liked the idea of being in the inner circle of this most secretive protective detail. If the shooting started, I’d be right in the middle of it.

Wow, would I have a war story to tell the OC Bandits: Riding shot gun with the sheriff, with a Middle East potentate in the back seat of the buggy. This would rival Gil S’s story about telling newly elected Secretary Vance the President Carter peanut joke.

I had respect for the A.I.C. after that hour-long meeting. He had told me all about King Hussein. It turns out the King was heading to Cypress Gardens to meet a lady friend, an Arab-American girl who liked to water ski. I wondered then who the “companion” was here, but it wasn’t my business. The A.I.C. talked like he had first hand knowledge of the King’s life. I was starting to wonder about this detail. Was the A.I.C. more than he appeared to be?

[to be continued]

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