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Captivating Times in India—What it Means to Travel Across the World as a Foreign Service Officer

Upon joining the Foreign Service, most officers are immediately assigned to locations all over the world. Postings can vary from serving in a democratic country where the government runs efficiently, to a country where the government is struggling to maintain power, to even an active war zone. Wherever the assignment, foreign service officers must be prepared for anything. In this “Moment in U.S. Diplomatic History,” we see that James Leader joined the Foreign Service with the Labor Department in 1962 and embarked on an exciting career that sent him all over the world.

State Bank of India at Madras. Taken on February 20, 2011 by Williamsatish25. Source: Wikimedia Commons
State Bank of India at Madras. Taken on February 20, 2011 by Williamsatish25. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Leader’s first assignment was in Madras, India where he learned a number of skills that he would later use in his career. Like most officers, he started off as a consul where he was actively training to master a new language. However, when the code clerk got sick, he was tapped as the replacement and began a rotational assignment that exposed him to working in different parts of the embassy, such as the consular, commercial, and political sections where he learned the value of networking. After his two years in Madras, India he continued his career in London. Read more

First Assignment—Thailand During the Vietnam War

Harlan Lee first became a foreign service officer in 1968 during the Vietnam War, and he was immediately dispatched to an active hotspot. Knowing he would be sent to Southeast Asia, Lee prepared himself for his first position as vice consul in Udorn, Thailand. Like many foreign service officers on their first assignment, he had no idea what to expect.

A farmer at work in Kenya's Mount Kenya region (2010) | Neil Palmer (CIAT) | Wikimedia Commons
A farmer at work in Kenya's Mount Kenya region (2010) | Neil Palmer (CIAT) | Wikimedia Commons

During this time period, the Vietnam War was at its peak with constant battle and struggle all around. Thailand hosted several military aircraft bases, and Lee was sent there to help support those bases and complete numerous missions.

In this “Moment in U.S. Diplomatic History,” we see that Harlan Lee’s posting to Thailand turned out to be a unique experience. Not only did he have to combat the active rise of communist insurgency, but he also assisted in dealing with every issue that emerged between U.S. and Thai forces. There was no official status of forces agreement between the two countries, so Lee and those who worked alongside him resolved constantly occurring disputes. He did his best to keep the peace with both the military forces and the locals. Read more