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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

MARCH 2017

43

The diversity of cultural backgrounds, experiences and language skills among DS ranks

is a key to the bureau’s success in safeguarding U.S. diplomacy around the world.

THE

DS

MELTING

POT

Rhonda (RJ) Bent Rabetsivahiny is a Diplomatic

Security supervisory special agent who joined the For-

eign Service in 2002. She has served overseas in Paris,

Antananarivo and Tegucigalpa, as well as in multiple

domestic assignments, including the New York Field Office, Secretary

of State’s Protective Detail and her current assignment in the Office

of Domestic Facilities Protection.

I

n the U.S. law enforcement community, Diplomatic

Security has a reputation for being a bit of a melting

pot. Unlike other law enforcement agencies that hire

for a narrowly defined skill set, DS needs and attracts

people from a variety of backgrounds. Given the

enormity of the DS mission—to provide a safe and

secure environment for the conduct of U.S. foreign

policy—as well as the geographic range of its respon-

sibilities, DS special agents cannot easily be catego-

rized. Although DS attracts large numbers of applicants with law

enforcement or military backgrounds, agents come from diverse

cultural backgrounds and bring a wide range of experience.

DS special agents must be truly dedicated to the job, and to

their country. Therefore, one of the requirements is to hold U.S.

citizenship. Within DS ranks, there are numerous agents who

are immigrants or children of immigrants. Their multicultural

backgrounds contribute to making DS a stronger, more dynamic

organization. At the same time, the DS career path allows them

to best utilize their rich cultural backgrounds, experiences and

foreign language skills on a daily basis.

FOCUS

SECURING DIPLOMACY

DS agent immigrants, or children of immigrants, came to the

United States by many routes, and for many reasons. Some came

as refugees; some were adopted by American families; some

sought better opportunities. In other cases, their parents bravely

made the sacrifices of immigrating in order to give their children

a better life.

DS Stories

In May 1982, at the age of 15, Tony Hornik-Tran escaped from Vietnam, accompanied by his brother. The two sailed to the

Philippines on a fishing boat. There he spent 11 months in refu-

gee camps, finally making it to the United States, where he was

adopted by an American family. In the span of just two decades,

he went from being a refugee to a DS special agent and diplomat.

Brianna May was adopted from Colombia when she was 8

months old. Her father, then a DS agent, was serving there during

the Pablo Escobar period. He and his wife were one of the first

families to adopt a child from Colombia. May explains that both

the U.S. ambassador and his wife were very involved in her adop-

tion process. The ambassador’s wife even accompanied May’s

parents to the orphanage to pick her up. “I thought the ambassa-

dor’s wife was actually my grandmother,” May says, because she

was in all of the adoption-day photos.

In 1949, Christopher Gu’s maternal grandfather, who worked

for a British shipping company, was at sea when the communists

assumed control of China. Unable to return home, he eventually

made it to New York City and began working in the restaurant

business. In the 1970s, Gu’s grandfather and a few fellow ship-

BY RHONDA ( RJ ) BENT RABETS I VAH I NY