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…

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….

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,…

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…

The Pioneering Age of Radio & Security (Part One)

photos by protostack.com From Tubes to Transistors Prior to the mid 1950’s vacuum tubes lit up the insides of TV’s, stereos, radios, and telecommunications gear. The large tubes emitted a lot of heat. They were fragile, consumed a large amount of electricity and were susceptible to vibrations when used in bulky two-way radios installed in…

An Alternative Foreign Service Orientation

Our tech supervisor Norm Bates, a Foreign Service veteran notified me that I would accompany him on a road trip to Philadelphia and Boston. Little did I know the trip would be an alternative Foreign Service “orientation.” Bates (whose last name wasn’t Bates) had serious goiter problems that were exacerbated by his beer drinking. Nevertheless, Norm…

Foreign Service Beginnings | The OC Bandits

October 1976 My Foreign Service beginnings commenced on a Monday morning. My first day on the job with the State Department I zoomed down the I-395 from my Arlington motel to Springfield. When I saw a Denny’s off to the right I stopped for a “Grand Slam” that the restaurant chain had been advertising since…

Swearing-In | The U.S. Department of State

October 1976 Mom called. The official confirmation letter from the U.S. Department of State had arrived. On a Thursday I took off work at noon and a buddy took me to a used car lot on Manhattan Beach Boulevard. I bought a used red Fiat sedan for seven hundred fifty cash. Then I swung by…

Foreign Service Appointment | An Accident Waiting to Happen?

On a Saturday morning in September of 1976, an official letter arrived at my parent’s house in Southern California. I was staying the weekend and answered the door. The mailman handed me the envelope. The old guy (he was well over forty) had been delivering to our mailbox for years. I had waved to him occasionally…

The Author’s Message

Special Update September 24, 2018 Please visit my new blog! Click on “Novels by DKMatthews” or go to the “my books” page in the heading. This blog will tune you in to some of my other writing interests. For the rest of this year “Novels by DKMatthews” posts will be related to my latest novel, L.A. Ghost Story…