Rome Fiumicino International Airport | Security Lapse

January 1978 I sipped coffee in a departure lounge café at Fiumicino airport. The New Year had afforded me about two weeks at Am Consul Karachi to get my shit together. My partner Al (a fellow tech out of the Office of Communications in D.C.) and I had figured out each other’s strengths and weaknesses….

Portrait of a Foreign Service Secretary | Welcome Aboard!

January 1978 | Am Consul Karachi—Stuck in an elevator (continued) After claiming she had accidentally sat on LBJ’s ten-gallon hat as an eight-year old youth BJ waited for the smile to melt off my face. Then she continued her autobiography while I fought to keep the elevator walls from inching closer … <Feature photo of…

Portrait of a Foreign Service Secretary | The Early Days

January 1978 | Am Consul Karachi (stuck in an elevator) My cohort Al had said to me on day one: “Watch out for BJ. She’s paddled around the world in a boat with one oar for the past thirty years.” When I got stuck in the Am Consul Karachi elevator with her I cursed myself…

Portrait of a Foreign Service Secretary | The End of a Career

January 1977 | Karachi, Pakistan The Saudi Air flight from Riyadh touched down at Karachi International Airport at close to eleven p.m. The Pakistani embassy driver smiled and took my luggage. It was too bad that I hadn’t stayed here long enough to meet more Pakistani people, but I enjoyed traveling. From what I had…

President Carter/Secretary Vance Joint Protective Detail | The Wrap Up

January 1978 | At the American Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia From my point of view as a radio tech the Carter/Vance S.Y. protective detail was all about the arrival and the departure. What happened in the hours in between were the harmonic byproducts of the constant chatter coming out of the base station’s speaker mixed…

Confessions of a Diplomatic Courier

November 1977—Somewhere Over the Adriatic Sea The Egyptian Khamsin (sand storm) and the ghosts of the past remained at the American Embassy Cairo. I was headed to Athens on Thai International Airlines via Rome. Al, my cohort at Am Consul Karachi, had recommended it. Why not a straight flight to Athens? That’s what I asked the Egyptian…

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…

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…

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…