The Foreign Service Journal - March 2017
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MARCH 2017



an understanding of Afghan etiquette in business and personal

relationships, and recognizing the importance of his relation-

ship with this person, he visited his contact in the hospital and

brought him the requisite fruit basket, which further solidi-

fied their relationship. These efforts proved beneficial in many

subsequent interactions, specifically when Poulsen leveraged

his relationship to avoid a hasty, unanticipated effort on the part

of the Afghan government to deport U.S. government person-

nel. Poulsen’s personal approach to diplomacy and many of his

accomplishments reflect traditional Danish qualities, but his

work ethic and ambition are all-American.

Sometimes the examples set forth by one’s parents are as sig-

nificant as personal experience. Kapoukakis credits his parents’

determination and resourcefulness with showing him that he

could overcome anything with a positive mindset, hard work

and tenacity. “I grew up with living, breathing examples of two

people who didn’t take no for an answer; two people who came

to the United States with nothing, made something of them-

selves and became contributors to the society that gave them

the opportunity to succeed,” he says. “That taught me a lot about

how to approach and overcome challenges.” For Kapoukakis, the

prevailing mindset while facing adversity growing up was “we’ll

figure it out.” He’s carried those lessons with him through his two

decades of public service.

Many of us aspire to be polyglots, yet struggle to pass the For-

eign Service Institute’s language exams. But for many DS agents,

understanding multiple languages is the norm. In addition to

English, Special Agent Hornik-Tran speaks six languages: fluent

Vietnamese, good Chinese and decent Slovak, as well as French,

Portuguese and Tagalog. Likewise, Teji Thiara, the

child of Indian immigrants, grew up speaking Eng-

lish and her parents’ native tongue, Punjabi. She

later picked up Hindi while attending boarding

school in India. As the child of farmers in northern

California, Thiara grew up hearing and speaking

Spanish. Add a few overseas tours, and she solidi-

fied her Spanish and also picked up a little Czech.

Themistocles (Themi) Karavites played a cru-

cial role in security operations for the U.S. Olympic

team at the 2004 Athens Olympics. As an assistant

regional security officer in Athens, he served as

one of four regional security coordinators and the

protective detail lead for all U.S. delegations. He

is frequently selected to serve on Greek protective

details because of his language abilities.

This language ability, combined with his Greek

heritage and cultural expertise, paid unexpected

dividends during his tour in Belgrade, where Kara-

vites discovered that several of the RSO’s primary

police contacts had previously served in Greece

and also spoke Greek. Because of the Serbian

Special Agent Tony Hornik-Tran proudly serves his country as a member of the

protective detail on a Secretary of State trip.


Special Agent Christian Poulsen (second from right) stands with

BG Sadat and his staff after a joint trip assessing Afghan Public

Protection Force regional training centers throughout Afghanistan.