Baghdad, Iraq | Arrival Resistance

April 1978 My cohort at the American Consulate Karachi, Al, had warned me. Regional Communications Officer Bob Roberson was adept at “expanding” our scheduled trips once we got out in the field. Bob’s well-crafted messages not only exonerated him but put the onus on us techs. Robertson’s message referenced the Office of Communication’s “Request for…

Middle East Travel | The Road to Damascus Ends at the Emerald City

March 1978 (Aboard a Jet Airliner 33,000 feet above Syria)  In biblical scripture the “Road to Damascus” referred to the sudden turning point in the life of the apostle Paul (when God shined the light on him) while literally on the road to Damascus from Jerusalem. Prior to that moment, he had been called Saul,…

Beirut, Lebanon | A View Through a Narrow Lens

November 1977 We arrived at the U.S. ambassador’s part time residence atop Mount Lebanon around ten a.m. unscathed. George had borrowed Ryan’s Saab sedan. He said it was less obtrusive that an embassy vehicle. I didn’t ask him what he thought about the ambassador cruising around in a black Lincoln Continental. I did ask George if…

American Embassy Beirut | A Night on the Town

November 1977 Communications & Records Officer Ryan B. cruised the deserted streets of Beirut at close to midnight. I thought I was pushing the envelope of Norm Bates’ 60/40 Hypothesis, which stated that 60% of our Foreign Service job was technical and 40% involved… Well, other stuff. Ryan had slipped an eight-track tape into the…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…