Communicators AND Others Enjoying Retirement
|April 2010||Spring Issue||Volume 10 - Number 1|
Welcome to the latest issue of a 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 15, April 15, July 15, and October 15.
The CANDOER Web site and newsletter may be viewed by going to the following URL: www.candoer.org
The success of this newsletter depends on you. I need contributors. Do you have an interesting article, a nostalgia item, a real life story, or a picture you would like to share with others? Do you have a snail-mail or an e-mail address of one of our former colleagues? If you do, send it to me at the following e-mail address:
Please, NO handwritten submissions.
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This issue continues the stories of "How I ended up working for the Department of State." Bill Weatherford and I both tell our stories.
The one-liners between stories were received from Al Debnar and are entitled, "Observations on growing older!"
The picture used at the top of page 1 is of the Department of State building in 1865.
Going out is good. Coming home is better!
Headed for the Land of Enchantment
After graduating from high school in 1953, at the ripe old age of 16, I worked at various jobs until I was 17 or 18. Some friends talked me into joining the Kansas Air National Guard as an F-86 weapons mechanic. I did, and was also working for the ATSF RR at their West Wichita shops repairing freight and refrigerator cars. I didn't really see much future in that, and decided to enlist in the regular Air Force.
Since I had already been through basic training, courtesy of the KANG, and had just over one year of ANG service, I was sent to a "re-enlistee" squadron until the USAF could figure out what they wanted to do with me. After the usual battery of tests to determine what I was supposed to be good at, I was sent all the way from Lackland AFB to Kelly AFB and assigned as a pre-language student (Russian) at Hq Air Force Security Service. The intent was to make me a Russian linguist. After I washed out of that, it was back to Lackland AFB for more career counseling, then all the way back to Kelly AFB and the USAFSS, again, this time for training as an Intercept Analyst. I got through that, sewed on my second stripe, and shipped out to Clark AB, PI, and the 6925th Radio Squadron Mobile in March, 1957. Eighteen months later I was transferred to Shiroi AB, Japan, and the 6902nd Security Wing.
In October/November, 1959, I was due to rotate back to the States and had submitted paperwork to re-enlist. I was going to be a "lifer." I had a guaranteed re-enlistment assignment, to Syracuse University as; guess what, a Russian language student. (Some people just never give up.) That was my plan, but not my room-mate's plan. He was the personnel clerk, and a re-tread from the Korean War, and told me I didn't really want to do that. Every time I went to the personnel office to check on my paperwork, they couldn't find it. Finally, after about a month or so of this I requested an appointment with the personnel officer and told him I was extremely unhappy and frustrated about the way I was getting the run-around and if this was the way they treated people who wanted to re-enlist they could take their guaranteed re-enlistment assignment papers and toss them. I didn't want any more to do with them. He tried to talk me out of it, but I just told him to tear them up.
Well, that put me in a bind. I came back to the States assigned to Hq USAF Special Communications Center, USAFSS, Kelly AFB, Texas. Upon release from active duty in April, 1960, my DD-214 was very clearly marked "ineligible to enlist or re-enlist for 91 days." That took care of any enlistment/re-enlistment bonus. I got a job at a Western Auto store (remember them?) and waited. When the ninety one days were up, I went to the Army recruiting office with my DD-214 and applied to enlist for service in the Army Signal Agency, the Army equivalent of the USAFSS. At the same time I applied to the Wichita Police Department and responded to an ad in the paper about a State Department recruiting team being in town, took their tests at the local employment office and filled out an employment application form.
So now I had three irons in the fire and decided to go with which ever of the three came through first. In November, 1960, I got my answer in the form of a letter from the State Department which contained a plane ticket to Washington, DC, and a set of orders appointing me a Code Clerk, FSS-13, salary $3,730.00 per year, with instructions to report on November 24, 1960, to begin my training.
From November, 1960, until April, 1961, it was fun and games with Lindy and the gang. I also met the woman I would later marry, who was also in the Foreign Service. When it was time for Miss Crim to seal our fate, she assigned me to Paris. The Paris code room was a factory. It operated 24/7, had three shifts plus a semi-permanent daytime complement. There were about 45 people working there at that time. By November, 1961, Judy had resigned from the FS (which you had to do in those days if you were getting married, especially if you were female) and we were married.
After two years in Paris, it was off to Seoul for five years, then Kabul for four years, Conakry for just over two years (I still don't know what they promised Pat Duffy, but he relieved me there. Thanks, Pat. I hope you kept your sanity. We did, I think.), Rio de Janeiro for three years (being forced to drive along Copacabana Beach to and from work was just terrible), followed by a penance tour of six years in the Department (OC/T and OC/EA), Manila for three years, ADOC Abidjan for two years, Geneva for four years, and my last post of Bangkok for three years. Retirement came in September, 1995, and we've been enjoying the "Land of Enchantment" ever since.
The 5 pounds you wanted to lose
is now 15 and you have a better chance
The Great Doo Wop Quiz
Thirty great memories about music that caused our parents and teachers grief! Take the quiz and see how you score as a true ''Oldies Fan.'' Write down your answers and check them against the answers at the end.
1. When did "Little Suzie" finally wake up?
The things you used to care to do,
you no longer care to do,
but you really do care
Why Washington, D.C.?
While having dinner a couple years ago with one of my classmates, who I had not seen in the 50 years since we graduated from high school, she asked me how I happened to end up leaving Waterford, PA and start working for the Federal Government in Washington, D.C.
Let's go back to 1955, the summer of the year before I graduated from Fort LeBoeuf High School, in Waterford, PA.
My junior year Dad decided that farming just wasn't worth the work, long hours, and low pay, so he made the decision to sell the small farm we had lived on and worked since 1945.
My older brother, Leslie, and I had one more year left in high school before we were to graduate. So in the summer of 1955 Dad moved us into the small farming town of Waterford (population at that time of under 750 - and that count may have included cats and dogs). He rented a house while we were waiting for a new house to be built in Erie and for Leslie and me to graduate.
It was very apparent to me that my parents were not going to be able to afford to send me to college, and even if they could, I did not consider myself college material. So in the spring of my senior year I enlisted in the U.S. Army, with a reporting date, at the processing center in Pittsburgh, of September 16, 1956, approximately three months after I was to graduate from high school. I enlisted in the Army with a promise that I would receive electronics training after completing eight weeks of basic training. At that time, the electronics training was a 26-week course.
On the sixth of June I and a week later our new house was completed and we moved to West 23rd Street in Erie, PA.
Next door to our new house lived a young lady by the name of Nancy Tregaskis. She would later become my wife. That's right I married “the girl next door.”
After graduation, and until I had to report to Pittsburgh for induction into the Army, I spent the summer months helping Dad get the yard in shape and correcting problems in the house that comes with all new houses, even back then.
On the 16th of September I reported to Pittsburgh for processing and was sent by train to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for eight weeks of basic training. Five weeks into basic, I developed pneumonia and was admitted to the base hospital. I missed two full weeks of basic. This put me finishing basic one week past the starting date of the electronics training class. The next training class did not start until June of 1957.
The Army gave me two choices. I could go to advance basic and then become a gofer while waiting for the next electronics class to begin, keeping in mind that I had to serve two years, after I completed the school, or I could go to cryptographic training.
By the time I had completed the first eight weeks of basic, I knew that the Army was not a long-term option for me and I did not want to re enlist, so I opted for cryptographic training.
Upon completion of basic, I was immediately ship off to Fort Gordon, Georgia and on the 3rd of December 1956 started cryptographic training at The South Eastern Signal School (TSESS).
After completing twelve weeks of Crypto training I was assigned to Fort Lee, Virginia. But, before going to Fort Lee, I was sent to South Post, Fort Meyer to work in the Pentagon for six weeks of on-the-job training.
After serving at Fort Lee for seven months I was informed that I was being transferred to Camp des Lodges, St. Germaine in Laye, France.
I served in the Headquarters, European Command communications center in Camp des Lodges until I took my discharge on September 10, 1959, at Fort Dix, New Jersey and then returned to Erie, PA to look for work.
I was out of work for approximately five months, drawing $35 a week unemployment insurance, before I found a job at a starting pay of $1.50 an hour with a small company in Erie called Wilson Research.
I worked in the Wing Display Division as a machine shop laborer making mannequins used in stores to display clothing. The mannequins were made of fiberglass, plastic, and brass. My job was a training position in the machine shop making the brass parts. I trained on, and operated, a metal cutting saw, a precision lathe, a drill press, and on rare occasions, a brass buffing machine.
While working their, in August of 1960, I married the girl next door.
It didn't take me long to discover that I did not want to do this the rest of my life. I was going home every night covered with brass dust. It was on my clothes and in my nose and mouth. Everything I ate or drank tasted of brass. It would be Monday morning before the taste disappeared and then it was time to start over again.
By now you have probably noticed a pattern. I kept finding things I didn't want to do for the rest of my life, but I did not have an idea of what I did want to do.
After approximately a year working in the machine shop and having been married for over five months, I decided to check at Erie's Main Post Office and see what types of Federal Government jobs were available. It was my hope to be able to work for the post office.
In an interview with the post office employment officer she asked me, with my training in cryptography and a record of a Top Secret security clearance, if I had thought of working for the Federal Government. I had not, but what the hey, why not?
At that time you did not have to apply to a specific agency for employment, you could apply to the Civic Service Commission and be put on a list. So I completed the paperwork, mailed it in, and sat back and waited. Approximately seven months later, in the same week, with Nancy five months pregnant, I received an offer of employment from the CIA, NSA, and the Department of State. All three offer letters gave telephone numbers to call collect to discuss the offer. (That was in the days before 1-800 numbers.)
I called the CIA first. Their position included overseas assignments. If I accepted the position they offered me, I had to serve a minimum of eight years out of every ten overseas.
I called NSA next. Their position included all overseas assignments. I would serve my entire career overseas; unless I received promotions to a high enough position to allow me to be assigned to the headquarters.
I called the Department of State last. They said it would be up to me, if I did not want to serve overseas, I would not have to. I could serve my entire career at the headquarters in Washington, D.C. I accepted that position.
After telling them I was interested, they informed me I would have to pass a physical and take a typing test. The typing test was conducted in Pittsburgh. I took the typing test and the physical and sent the forms off.
I received a letter offering me employment on the 1st of October 1961. I called and accepted the offer and they sent me an official letter of appointment with a reporting date of October 16, 1961. I reported to the day shift of the Unclassified Wire Room on the sixth floor of the Department of State, with a starting position as a GS-4 with a breathtaking salary of $4040 per annum. That was $920 more than I was making in the machine shop at Wilson Research, Wing Display Division.
Nancy, being nearly eight months pregnant by that time with our first child, Robert, Jr., did not follow me to Washington until January of 1962. Our first son was born in November of 1961.
I retired from the Department of State in 1994 after 35 years and seven months of Government service. Three years with the Army and 32 years and seven months with the Department of State.
It had been our plan, when I retired, to return to the Erie/Waterford area to live. BUT, our two sons and our daughter all settled in the Washington Metro area, so we made the decision to stay in this area to be close to our children, our grandchildren, and our great grandchildren.
You read 100 pages into a book before you realize you've read it!
Answers to the Great Doo Wop Quiz
1 (c) The movie's over, it's 4 o'clock
When people say you look "Great" . . . they usually add "for your age!"
Take care and be safe!