Welcome to the latest issue of the newsletter dedicated to the CANDOERs (Communicators AND Others Enjoying Retirement). This newsletter will be distributed quarterly. New issues will be posted on the Web for viewing on or about, January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1.
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Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
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Well fall has come and gone and winter has reared its ugly head. As I put this issue to bed it is 18 degrees with a wind chill of 0. I hate cold weather.
At least the weather let me fish up until Thanksgiving. The boat and fishing equipment has been put into mothballs for the winter.
This issue is being released several weeks early. On December 21 I start a series of 42 radiation treatments for prostate cancer. I was diagnosed with the cancer in September of 2015.
The Great Cat Keeper Caper
I decided to go to John Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center for treatment. My reason to go to John Hopkins was its ranking as number one for prostate cancer treatment.
I had hoped to have the prostate removed, but because of my age (I celebrated the 39th anniversary of my 39th birthday in October) they would not do it. They said that they would not do this type of surgery on anyone over 75 years of age because complications are double those of someone under 75.
My other options were "wait and see" (get a biopsy every year to see if it was progressing), radiation seeds, cryogenics (freezing), or radiation. My doctor recommended the "wait and see" option. I was not willing to do this, I opted for radiation treatments.
Both my Mother (lung) and Dad (prostate) died from cancer and both my Brothers (prostate) and my Sister (breast) have had cancer (all three siblings are presently cancer free). I am a worry wart and knew that wondering what the cancer was doing year after year between biopsies would drive me crazy (as you all know that would have been a short drive) so I opted for radiation.
The American Cancer Society of Baltimore has apartments for people who live more than 50 miles from the John Hopkins. Monday I will know if and when an apartment is available. If it is not available for December 21, they will delay the treatment until one is available. If it is available Nancy and I will be staying in Baltimore for approximately nine weeks.
By Dick Kalla
Forgiveness sought is not always granted. I cite this example from an incident that happened when I was stationed at the American Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, many years ago.
POTUS visit to Managua in 1999
At that time, the Embassy published a weekly newsletter. Employees were encouraged to submit relevant material for inclusion. In those days, there was an unchecked population of cats living in the large inner Embassy courtyard. How they had come to be there was unknown, though it was believed that employees leaving post who were unable or unwilling to take their pets with them dropped them off in the courtyard before departure, knowing that some kind soul would undoubtedly feed them. After all, who could resist a lovable hungry cat?
There was just such a kind person during most of my four years in Jakarta. One of the secretaries in the Political Section was a cat lover. She brought food for the felines, spent time with them and took them to the vet to have them spayed and neutered, etc. She was a self-avowed cat lover but, like all of us, her tour in Indonesia eventually ended. Who would take over as the new Embassy cat protector?
Not everyone felt the same way about our feral cat population. One secretary was very vocal about her hatred for those"dirty cats" that swarmed around her every time she used the courtyard to go to the small commissary or outer buildings. They need to be exterminated, was her mantra. Never one to miss the opportunity for a little levity and a bit of sophomoric humor, I drafted a note to the newsletter, presenting it as coming from the unabashed cat hater. The note congratulated the former cat protector for her work in caring for the Embassy's beloved cat population. It went on to say that she would be honored to take over the care and feeding of these wonderful animals. Finally, she encouraged others to send her cat food to assist in this endeavor.
As I passed the note around my office before sending it, I received a great deal of encouragement to submit it, something I hadn't completely decided to do at that juncture. Especially vocal was Les, one of my co-workers, a known prankster himself. Now certain that I was doing the right thing, (I mean who doesn't like a little innocent fun), I sent the note to the newsletter and awaited the results.
They were soon in coming and they were terrible. Merely moments after she saw her name in the newsletter as the new, self-appointed cat lady, Marlene (not her real name), went ballistic. Not only did she spew hatred toward the person who had impersonated her, but she vowed revenge. Of course other cat lovers calling to praise her for undertaking this heartwarming task and offering to bring her cat food didn't help improve her mood.
The ink had hardly dried on the paper when Marlene set out to right this wrong against her person. In her mind, the prime suspect was my aforementioned co-worker, Les, who she knew was the only one who would do such a thing. In fact the more she thought about it and the more Les denied writing it, the more Marlene believed he was lying.
Finally, as the venom spewing grew, the task of identifying the culprit and exacting revenge was kicked up the chain-of-command. The list of possible suspects eventually dwindled to one, Les. He continued to plead his innocence. As Les's direct supervisor I was called down to meet and discuss the matter with the Administrative Counselor, my boss. He explained to me that Marlene had already taken the matter up with the Ambassador and was threatening to go all the way back to Washington to seek justice, if necessary. It was time, he told me, for Les to come clean.
This was now a moral dilemma. I had confessed to Marlene while she was haranguing Les that I was the one who had written the note. So sure was she that Les had done it that she refused to believe me. But, I had no choice now I had to convince my boss that I was the perpetrator. He finally believed me and, after some admonishment and a few words about childish behavior that I have forgotten, he instructed me to apologize to Marlene in writing. This had gone on long enough.
I did as he asked. Marlene didn't believe me, didn't as long as I was there, but the matter had reached a stalemate. She'd received her demanded apology, though it wasn't, she believed, from the real culprit. My appeal for forgiveness fell on deaf ears. In her heart she knew that it was Les who had perpetrated the dastardly deed, not me.
By Rudy Garcia
Around March 1999 President Clinton was to visit Nicaragua to see the damage caused by hurricane Mitch. The specific site was a village that was "drowned" by a mudslide. He was going to land at Managua airport and then proceeded by helicopter to the site.
The Old Corps
We liaised with the local telephone and radio technicians for the White House Communications Agency. The local telephone company provided a mobile satellite transmitter/receiver at the remote site to relay WHCA telephone traffic to Managua. In Managua WHCA required more than 30 telephone lines at the international airport. A microwave link (if I remember correctly) provided the 30+ links from the airport building to their HQ. However, a couple of hours before touchdown of Air Force One the microwave equipment crashed and there was not enough time to run the number of landlines WHCA needed.
The chief of the local telephone techs said he could "borrow" the required landlines from 30+ residences but it would take time to notify the residents of the impending outage and we didn't have the time. WHCA said they needed at least two hours of operation for these telephone lines. I asked the local tech if we could not just commandeer the lines for the crucial period of two hours as Managua's infrastructure always had outages. I said the residents would just figure it was an outage. He agreed and that's what they did. No complaints from the residents, especially when they were outside watching the spectacle of a dozen or so helicopters flying out of the airport in formation as the POTUS group travelled onto the remote site. No complaints from WHCA as they got their two hours of ops time.
By John Lemandri
We proudly stood on the Marine Corps' infamous Paris Island parade field on graduation day in 1966 as an officer and senior noncom trooped the line. Millions of Marines since WWI had made it through eight weeks of hell, and I was about to join their illustrious ranks. "Smith," I heard the noncom say,"Fine Marine." I smiled."Samuels," he continued while facing the next Marine in line,"Keep up the outstanding work." The grin on my face was about to get bigger when the noncom turned to me and said,"Lemandri," he paused, then without missing a beat yelled out,"A waste; a f.....g waste." I pissed my pants.
Hiring on With State
Chapter IV Dacca, Bangladesh Experiences - Part I
By Dick McCloughan
I arrived in Dacca on a Friday and spent the weekend catching up on some much needed sleep. Monday morning with the CPO we drove in to what had been the U.S. Consulate in East Pakistan. Following the Indo-Pak war, East Pakistan gained independence and became Bangladesh. Since the U.S. Government had not recognized the new government, the Consulate was kind of in limbo; no longer a Consulate and not yet an Embassy. Washington had semi-officially designated Dacca as an"U.S. Interests Section" and that's how we sent out messages. During the War all dependents had been evacuated and outside of two secretaries in the Chancery and one in AID, the staffing was all male. The Chancery occupied the top two floors (five and six) of the Ajami Jute Corporation Building in downtown Dacca. The building itself was in poor condition and desperately in need of a coat of paint. There was a small elevator, complete with a Bengali operator, which worked intermittently. It went as high as the fifth floor where we took the stairs to the sixth floor.
Communications was located down a hallway, through the Consul General's and Political Section's offices. At the end of the hallway, TCU had an office to the left and CPU to the right. TCU was manned by one permanent guy and one TDYer. CPU was small with two HW-28s, two desks, a mimeograph machine, and Model I incinerator located in a small room off CPU. Also there were slotting bins for message traffic located in the hallway between CPU and TCU. It was a"pass slot" operation, with TCU sending and receiving all the traffic. Everything considered this was a smaller, and more antiquated, operation than I had experienced in the Navy when assigned to a ship which was commissioned in 1943.
I settled in and began learning day-to-day operations. CPU, all two of us, provided the Chancery with coverage from 0700 until 1900, Monday through Friday. On a rotating basis, one of us would go in at 0700, get off at 1500, the other at 1100 and closing down at 1900. Saturday one of us went in at 0700 and processed incoming traffic until noon. After hours call-ins were rare, but when they occurred one had to take the stairs since the elevator operator quit work at 1900.
That first morning the CPO pointed out the"duty" baseball bat and flashlight the duty individual took home in case of a call-in. The Louisville Slugger was used to beat off the large rats which congregated in the stairwell between the ground and fourth floors and the flashlight to light your way; there were no hallway lights. The offices occupying those floors tossed all their garbage into the hallway, hence the rats.
There were no MSGs and a detachment wasn't established until October 1972.
Because no one had been authorized a private vehicle, we were provided with a vehicle and driver to take us to and from the Chancery. Once a week, via Thai International Airlines, there was a courier exchange at the airport. Courier exchanges were always challenging due to the hordes of beggars at the airport. We in Commo had two theories regarding this. One being that the beggars had figured out that people who came in, or departed via airplanes had money, or they gathered to watch"big steel bird come out of sky."
The CPO cautioned me when I went out there to always wear a jacket, put on gloves, and carry an umbrella regardless of the weather. The umbrella was to fend off the indigenous population and to avoid being touched by the large number of lepers out there.
During my twenty month tour I went through a number of umbrellas. In Bangladesh there were no leper colonies, or mental institutions for that matter, and they all roamed the streets. Couriers used to pray there had been a heavy rainstorm in Dacca causing the runway to sink and Thai International would have to overfly and go on to New Delhi. (This happened quite frequently during monsoon season). Couriers did not want to get stranded in Dacca.
I went out to the airport one day for a courier exchange and waited for the courier to disembark. He got off and laughingly asked if we were expecting a new secretary. I said yes, that her boss, the Econ Counselor, was waiting behind the fence. He advised she would not get off the plane. She had looked out, had seen the hordes of people atop the terminal building and refused to leave her seat. He also said the Thai International crew was getting frustrated. I obtained permission to board the plane and found her crying her eyes out. I asked what the problem was and she replied she had never been advised in Washington of what to expect, and this was more than she could handle. I told her that her new boss was waiting for her and what should I tell him. In a very loud voice, she said,"You can tell him I'm not getting off this plane. I've had two tours in Africa and have never seen anything like what's out there. You tell him I QUIT!! Get me a ticket back to Washington!!!"
I deplaned, walked over to the fence and relayed her message to the Econ Officer. He threw up his hands, returned to the Chancery and obtained resignation paper work and a ticket to Washington. When he returned, about thirty minutes later, the Bengalis would not allow him to go to the plane and I had the distinction of taking her the ticket and resignation form.
The Thai International crew was not exactly happy campers. They wanted to spend the minimum amount of time on the ground in Dacca as they could. I gave the still crying secretary her ticket, had her sign the resignation form and started to depart. One of the attractive Thai stewardesses gave me an ice cold Singha beer for bringing the ticket to the secretary. I explained the Econ Officer had obtained the ticket and asked to give him one also. She bowed and gratefully pulled out another one. I deplaned and took it to Econ with the resignation form. I recall he drained it in one swallow.
In my entire F.S. career I never heard of another individual who resigned on the plane they came in on. During my tour we never did get an Econ secretary.
In the fall a MSG Detachment was established and parties, TGIFs, commenced at the Marine House. Being a Moslem country it was nearly the only place to get a drink other than at homes. Needless to say, the Marine House was packed on Friday nights. Personnel from nearly every diplomatic mission were in attendance. This included Russians, Polish, East Germans, and the Papal Nuncio (a Catholic Bishop representing the Vatican). Girls from the other missions would also attend which livened up things.
On one occasion a group of 10 or 12 Air Lingus stewardesses were in Bangladesh courtesy of a humanitarian organization called"Irish Concern." The British communicators made sure they came to the Marine House for TGIF. It had been one long time since any of us single guys had seen any attractive Anglo girls and I remember a number of beers and drinks being dropped by the Marines, and commo, when they walked in. The music was turned up, the girls were given free drinks, and a real party ensued. Everyone got a chance to dance with the girls including both the Papal Nuncio and a Jesuit Priest. His name was Father John and wore the traditional brown cassock. He could have been a double of the individual who played the Friar Tuck character in the Robin Hood movies. Father John was Irish and really had a ball, a glass of Scotch in one hand and an Irish Concern girl in the other.
In December of 1972, the CPO announced he couldn't see spending Christmas in Dacca and began making plans for a week's trip to Bangkok. There had been some demonstrations in Dacca, stirred up by the Communist party, regarding the U.S. bombing of Hanoi and mining of the harbor in Haiphong, but nothing too serious until December 11th. On that date a group of youths defaced the USIS center in Dacca with anti-American slogans and Communist Party insignia. Mike considered delaying his trip, but things settled down and he departed on the 21st. That afternoon a group of students rushed the few Bengali soldiers who were guarding USIS and took it over. Fortunately, the PAO and his local staff managed to escape through the back door. The soldiers, as to be expected, made no effort to stop them, but ran away.
All week long the Charge met with the Foreign Minister in an effort to dislodge the students from USIS, but without any success. On the 26th students virtually destroyed the USIS center in Chittagong, a city south of Dacca. On the same day the USIS center in Rajshahi, north of Dacca, was also destroyed. On the afternoon of the 27th the army rushed the USIS building in Dacca and dislodged the students. However, in doing so they fired into the group and killed four. I got up on the 28th around 0600 and sat down at the dining room table and waited for my servant to serve breakfast which he usually promptly did.
This morning he didn't appear and I, after a few minutes, walked back to the kitchen. There he sat and hadn't started anything. When asked what was going on, he explained I better not go to the Embassy, that it was very bad out there, students had taken over the city. I threw up my hands in frustration and headed out to the garage to drive in. (By this time the GSO had generously assigned us a CPU vehicle to drive to and from the Chancery. Being the nice guy he was he gave us a brand new 1972 International Carryall. It was a nice vehicle with a good sized V-8 and a four speed stick on the floor).
I was just walking out the front door when the phone rang. It was the TDY TCU guy advising the Embassy driver had not picked him up. I told him what my servant had said and since he was staying at the TCO's house, which was close by, I'd pick him up. (The TCO had also gone to Bangkok for Christmas).
I picked him up and we began our trip to the Embassy. We got about halfway there and discovered a large, dilapidated British double-decker bus blocking the street. I put the Carryall up on the sidewalk and we discovered approximately fifty youths were on the other side of the bus. They saw the big, gold U.S. Embassy emblems on the Carryall's doors and started throwing bricks. The International took some damage, including the loss of a couple windows, but I put my foot in the gas and we got away.
About two blocks further on, where we had to take a left to get to the Embassy, we saw the street had been blocked by a number of 50 gallon oil drums. There were also a number of men behind the drums. I told the TDYer to hang on, punched the Carryall hoping the oil drums were empty. Fortunately they were and the crowd scattered when I drove through the barricade, scattering barrels every which way. One barrel came back and took out the windshield and the students hurled bricks shattering the remaining windows. Fortunately neither the TDYer nor I were hit too seriously. I don't know if we hit anyone, but we definitely were not going to stop. By the time we got to the Embassy the engine was smoking and the temperature gauge was pegged in the red. Obviously by hitting the oil drums I had seriously damaged the radiator. The Carryall was more than a little worse for wear and I knew the GSO was not going to be very happy. We had, however, made it in one piece and I mentally thanked the Carryall's makers at International.
Naturally the elevator operator had taken the day off and we ran up six flights of stairs. As luck would have it, the youngest MSG in the detachment was on duty and was nearly going out of his mind. His relief had called and given him the word of what was going on in the city. Needless to say, his relief wouldn't be coming in. The MSG was unarmed. (They were still trying to figure out how to get weapons in for the detachment from Bangkok). The young Lance Corporal was quite concerned regarding his lack of weapon. I thought that a single .38 Smith and Wesson wouldn't be much of a deterrent if a horde decided to take over the Embassy.
I opened up CPU and the TDYer opened his side. A few minutes later the Station Chief and the Econ officer arrived. They said there had been stopped a road block on their way in, but the Station Chief, who was driving told the students, first in German and then in English, they were with the German Embassy (he was fluent in four or five languages) and they let them through. The Econ officer phoned the Charge who advised he would not attempt to come in and directed him to draft a message advising Washington of what was going on. It was also courier day and I sent a message to Bangkok letting them know I would not be making the exchange.
The CPO, TCO and a few other Embassy personnel who had celebrated Christmas in Bangkok were also scheduled to be on that flight. In my message to Bangkok I requested they call the airport and have Thai International advise all the Americans not to board the plane. (This they did not do). I then called the local Thai International representative, a Danish guy with SAS Airlines and a good friend, to see if the flight was going to land owing to the situation. He said he had reports that the Army was doing some shooting at the airport and that he had advised the plane not to taxi to the terminal when it landed. He had suggested it stop at the end of the runway, disembark passengers, and immediately take off for New Delhi. I typed up the Econ Counselor's message, got it sent, and called the GSO compound which was about a mile from the Embassy. The GSO, a short, crusty Texan, Ed by name, answered the phone. I told him I was worried about the Embassy personnel possibly arriving on Thai International if they didn't get the word in Bangkok. He told me not to worry, that he would handle it.
As soon as he got off the phone, he got the oldest vehicle in the fleet, a full sized Chevy station wagon, grabbed a can of red paint, and painted big red crosses on the doors and one on the hood. From somewhere he found a white uniform and had one of the drivers put it on. Later Ed told me he had the driver raise his right hand and told him,"In the power invested in me by being GSO, I hereby swear you into the International Red Cross." He told the driver if he did get stopped at any roadblocks on the way to the airport, to tell them he was with the Red Cross and had to get to the airport, that there was a very sick individual coming in on Thai International.
The Station Chief made contact with one of his Bengali contacts who advised a memorial for the four slain students was planned around 1300 at the big mosque just a few blocks from the Embassy. He then went on to tell us the word he had received was after the memorial, a group of around 100,000 were going to storm the Embassy. Both the TCU guy and I laid out our destruction tools and prepared to burn all the one-time tape. The Station Chief and Econ Officer went up on the roof, found a long ladder and threw it across to the adjacent building. This was to be our escape route if the students did take over the Embassy.
Around noon the Thai International flight landed and our personnel, who had not been advised in Bangkok of the situation, were indeed on board.
The"Red Cross" vehicle was able to access the tarmac and took the personnel to the Marine House which was located in the suburbs. Shortly upon arriving there the CPO phoned to see how things were going. I advised him of what I had done regarding emergency destruction and our escape plans. He made a few suggestions and then said he was out there at the MSG House having a cold Heineken and hoped we made it out. However, if we didn't, could he have my stereo speakers, that they were really nice. I would have killed for a cold beer and nearly blew, but I knew he was joking. I told him I'd get out one way or another and to save me a Heineken.
At 1300 the five of us assembled in the Charge's office which gave us a view down the street to the mosque. We saw a crowd of at least 100,000 waving placards and banners assemble and began marching towards the Chancery. They came up to the Embassy, marched around the circular driveway, but no one attempted to enter the building. Not a single brick or paint bomb was thrown and they marched away. We considered ourselves very lucky not have had the Chancery overtaken.
The five of us spent the night in the Embassy and the Station Chief opened up the cafeteria. He made up some Spam sandwiches and with cokes we had supper.
The following afternoon Embassy personnel, including the CPO, made it through several road blocks and made it to the Embassy. The CPO told me to go home, that I had done enough and he could handle it. I gratefully left with a driver, got to the apartment, and promptly slept for about fourteen hours.
Yes, the GSO wasn't too pleased when he saw the International, but was glad it had held together and gotten the TDYer and myself safely to the Embassy.
In June of 1973 the Charge' made the command decision there would be no formal 4th of July celebration. He decided it was just too hot in Dacca at that time of the year and the 4th of July party would be re-scheduled in October. The Marines took umbrage at this announcement and plans were secretly formulated to hold an"unofficial" 4th of July celebration at the Marine House on the regular date, but only a select few of the Embassy staff would be invited. (Neither the Charge' nor his wife were to be invited). All of the individuals, who were invited, were sworn to secrecy. Being big supporters of the MSG detachment CPU and TCU personnel were co-conspirators in planning the party. The 4th fell on a Wednesday that year, and the Sunday before the party a group of us met at the Marine House to begin decorating. Somewhere in Dacca the Marines had found red, white and blue crepe paper bunting and we began affixing that to the ceiling of the main room. I don't recall who it was that said,"Its shame we don't have any balloons. Those would really add to the decorations."
Amongst our group of collaborators was the AID Population Control Officer. He began laughing and said he thought he had just what was needed. He explained he had received around 100,000 gross of multi-colored prophylactics which were just sitting in a warehouse. He said they were of no use since they were for the average size U.S. male. (Most Bengalis are of rather short stature and not as well endowed). He sent his driver to the warehouse who shortly returned with several boxes containing multicolored condoms. By this time numerous beers had been consumed and we thought it was hilarious to blow them up and with Scotch tape, attach them to the ceiling.
We were really getting into the swing of things when the doorbell rang. One of the Marines answered and there was the wife of the Charge'; commonly known as"Ding Bat Alice". She stated she had heard we were decorating and wanted to know if she could help. We all looked at one another and I believe it was the Population Control Officer who said she could help us blow up balloons. We gave her some boxes of prophylactics, sat her down on the stairs leading to the second floor, and she began blowing them up. We definitely had a difficult time keeping straight faces, but somehow we managed.
A half hour or so passed and the Charge's wife was really getting into it when the doorbell once again rang. There was the Charge' who immediately saw what his wife was doing. In a loud voice he exclaimed,"What do you think you are doing?" She replied that she was just blowing up balloons. He stormed out with,"Those aren't balloons!!!!" He grabbed her by the hand and stalked out. We collapsed in hysterics.
The party came off as scheduled and everyone, especially personnel from other Embassies, thought the decorations were just great.
In early the fall of 1973 the CPO rotated out and his replacement, whose previous post had been Bern, arrived. Dacca was his first hardship post and he soon found it to be a decided change from Bern.
In October, a week or so before Eid-al-Fitr (the end of Ramadan), we suddenly lost all power in the Chancery. This was a common event and we didn't think much about it until the GSO discovered a very large, hungry rat (there wasn't any other kind in the country) had committed suicide by chewing through the large, 440 volt main power cable which fed the Embassy. The GSO notified the local power company and was informed that because of Ramadan, repairs could not be accomplished until the end of Eid. We immediately powered up our small emergency generator, which was only large enough to power CPU and TCU.
The secretarial staff, all two of them, were forced to prepare outgoing cables using manual typewriters and neither were very happy.
The first day we ran the generator we discovered it would dangerously overheat after an hour or so and had to be shut down. This was because the exhaust had been vented into a narrow crawl space. The TCO, who was responsible for the generator, made the decision we couldn't run it during the day, but would come in at night, run it as long as we could, and send/receive as much traffic as we could. Even with this method, we could only run the generator for 3-4 hours. Needless to say, after three or four days of this procedure our message back-log was steadily increasing. I suggested to the new CPO we request to go minimize. He exclaimed,"But what should we give as the reason?" I replied, to tell the truth, Washington wouldn't question the message.
They knew where we were and the situation we were operating in. The message was sent, Washington didn't query us, and immediately granted minimize. We operated that way for another 10 days until Eid ended and the cable was repaired. The new CPO began to realize just where he was and things weren't the same as Bern.
I learned a lot during my first tour. Both the CPOs I had were patient and good instructors. I also made a number of good friends, a number of whom I am still in contact with today. Dacca was indeed a hardship tour, but we banded together during the tough times, and partied hardy on more than one occasion.
Be safe and enjoy life!
See you next quarter.
KEEP THE STORIES COMING!