The Foreign Service Journal - June 2015
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JUNE 2015



Chi Minh Trail, which moved tanks and

troops south, ended near Tay Ninh. When

on one occasion I showed videotapes of

the Paris Peace Accords in 1973, the Cao

Dai politely saw through it as an empty


One provincial leader in central Viet-

namhad a remarkable gift of clairvoyance.

In late September 1974, he warned that I

was exposing my family to grave danger.

He seemed to know that my wife and two

young children were in Saigon withme.

He said that an order was being pre-

pared for my new assignment, and a mes-

sage would arrive in two weeks. I asked

him if the assignment was in the United

States or another country.

He replied that I was going to a cold

country, not the United States. Indeed, an

official telegram from USIA Washington

came in early October offering me direct

transfer to Embassy Santiago.

This backstory on seers has a denoue-

ment. On April 30, 1975, on local radio,

the Voice of America relay reported that

President Duong Van Minh, aka General

“Big” Minh, had surrendered to the North

Vietnamese Army at Saigon’s Indepen-

dence Palace. The news came to me while

the cold autumn wind was blowing in

southern Chile, just as the provincial seer

had predicted.

Jose Armilla

FSO, retired

Vienna, Virginia

Still Much to Learn

My compliments to Editor Shawn

Dorman, the

Foreign Service Journal


and the contributors (most of whom I

know) to the

FSJ issue on Vietnam

. Each

article was uniquely informative and well

written. I served in Vietnam from 1964 to

1968, both in Central Vietnam and Sai-

gon. I have visited Vietnam several times

since then and have followed closely

how the country has moved along after a

period of uncertainty.

There is still much to be learned from

the American experience in Vietnam and

how it applies to the issues of our day.

Gilbert H. Sheinbaum

FSO, retired

Vienna, Virginia

Connecting With AFSA

I read with great admiration retired

Ambassador Robert M. Beecroft’s and

AFSA President Robert J. Silverman’s let- ters in the April 2015 Journal concerning

inclusion of both diversity and objectivity

in selecting recipients of AFSA awards.

As a regular reader of the


since retiring in 2009, I have observed lit-

tle diversity and objectivity in the award

nominations or selections. Specialists

and other minorities (yes, I choose this

term even though it seems outdated and

overused) do not seem to be included at

the same rate as others.

Like many retirees, I regularly attend

the State Department get-togethers—

for specialists and officers—in my

hometown. Some of us have gone on to

establish new careers and some have

continued to participate in State activities

and even continue working, specialists

and generalists alike. But there seems to

be little or no interest in AFSA and what

it does or would like to accomplish in

regard to retirees. There seems to be a

huge disconnect between these retirees

and AFSA.

The recent AFSA survey, also in the April FSJ , indicated that members have

a number of concerns. On retirement

issues, exactly a quarter of those sur-

veyed felt that more needed to be done.

Another concern was this: “AFSA seems

to be more interested in generalists’

issues rather than specialist.” AFSA needs

to take action on these matters.

If AFSA is serious about supporting

diversity and inclusion, it must make

radical changes to its method of doing

business and providing services. A few

years ago I was interested in volunteer-

ing for a committee but was told by AFSA

that if I didn’t live in the Washington,

D.C., area it would be on me to make sure

that I got to the meetings.

Earlier, I wrote an email to AFSA

requesting that the organization be more

responsive to those who don’t always think

and live inside the Beltway. I was told that

it would take time tomake any changes.

I am sure changes can be made if

AFSA wants to make them. Members

should not be limited to what commit-

tees or meetings they can participate

in just because of their location. Cost is

minimal, if any, as there are several ways

to videoconference (e.g., Skype).

Members, retired and active-duty,

need to become more involved in how

our union is communicating and doing

its job, even if we are not in the Washing-

ton, D.C., area.

I am still sincerely dedicated to the

principles of the Department of State. I

recently signed on to the AFSA Commu-

nity and have volunteered to monitor a

retiree While Actually Employed group.

I am aware that the community itself is

new, and I look forward to being one of

the monitors on this particular group.

Juan Becerra

IMO, retired

Rio Rancho, New Mexico


Charles William Thomas

Philip Shenon begins his recent book,

A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret His- tory of the Kennedy Assassination , with a

focus on the 1965 reporting fromMexico

City by FSO Charles WilliamThomas,

whose all-too-short career in the Foreign