by Allen Dale Olson
In May 1967 I checked into the Directorate of the United States Dependents Schools, European Area (USDESEA) in Karlsruhe, Germany, beginning a twenty-plus year career of working with remarkable educators and military officers. USDESEA had been established by the Defense Department to operate under the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) some 200-plus elementary, middle, and high schools for the sons and daughters of military personnel assigned to the European Area.
For school purposes, in 1967 the European Area extended from sub-Saharan Africa to the Arctic Circle, from Rota, Spain, to Ankara, Turkey, and enrolled more than 100,000 students in schools on Army, Navy, and Air Force installations. USDESEA also had responsibility for paying tuition to international and State Department schools in locations where too few military dependents precluded operating a school. These “tuition-fee” schools were all over Africa, the Middle East, and in European cities where there were no U.S. military installations. USDESEA was responsible for ascertaining that these schools were providing an acceptable American-style education.
The USDESEA Directorate was organized much like the superintendencies of civilian school systems in the United States – a Director with heads of Curriculum, Logistics, Finances, Facilities, Personnel, and Elementary and Secondary Specialists. Subordinate District Superintendents were based in parts of Germany, along the Mediterranean Coast, and in England. School facilities and transportation services were the responsibility of local host installation commanders, reimbursed by USDESEA.
(It should be noted that while schools in the European Area were supported by the Army, the schools in the Pacific Area – Japan, Korea, etc. – were under the Department of Air Force, and the schools in the Atlantic Theater – Azores, Bermuda, Iceland, etc. – were under the Department of Navy, all with their own civilian school Directorate.)
I arrived to fill a new position for which a job description evolved, ending up with a vague Executive Officer title responsible primarily for public affairs and school-community relations. I loved those duties!
Not only did they necessitate my working with all the Directorate staff but they also meant I had to circulate among the district offices and the schools to meet with local commanders and school staffs. In short, I was not only immersed in the education profession and in communication with strategic military missions and stationing plans, I was also really seeing the world!
My position led to becoming the school system representative to the Transatlantic Boy Scout Council, the North Atlantic Girl Scout Council, the European PTA, and management spokesman for negotiations with the Overseas Education Association and the Overseas Federation of Teachers. It required me to be acquainted with all aspects of school system policies, military populations (to include nature of missions), curriculum decisions, and involved in the development of new and unique programs such as Project Bold, D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse and Resistance Education), African-American Studies. I met with Education Ministers throughout Germany, in England, Holland, and Belgium in search of host nation resource teachers to help our students with language and cultural studies. I was part of numerous meetings working out support details for the establishment of international schools at AFCENT Headquarters in the Netherlands and at NATO-SHAPE Headquarters near Brussels. I met almost weekly with reporters for STARS and STRIPES and the American Forces Radio Network for discussions about school programs, personalities, and current education issues. (Because of the number of letters I answered for STARS and STRIPES, one of the editors referred to me as “The Ann Landers of USDESEA.”)
Other duties included scheduling, planning for, and hosting visiting dignitaries from the Congress, the Defense Department, and Stateside universities and attending national education conferences in the United States. Another very big project in the late 1970s reached my desk: develop a plan to establish a local advisory council at each school; a regional advisory council for each Directorate, a European level school advisory council, and a similar council at the DoD level!
In short, these duties added up to more than 100,000 traveling miles a year!
Twelve years later, in 1979, Congressional Committees and Defense Department officials determined that the central authority for the schools should be in the Pentagon and that the overseas areas should be broken into smaller “regions,” each with its own regional director and staff. It took a while, because interests within and without the school system and the military departments were not convinced this was a good plan. At the same time, an initiative that reached the White House level would have the Defense Department schools transfer into the new Department of Education and be assigned to an Under Secretary. (Full disclosure: my name was a finalist on the White House list for that secretarial position.)
The services and many long-time veterans of the school system were opposed to the transfer to the Department of Education. When it became obvious that many international Status-of-Forces Agreements and federal employment benefits would have to be revised, the transfer proposal failed, and the DoD centralization happened instead. USDESEA was dissolved; DoDDS Germany Region North and DoDDS Germany Region South as well as DoDDS Atlantic and DoDDS Mediterranean Regions were created to replace it.
The USAREUR staff requested a DoD liaison to work with them on their school responsibilities. DoD and one Regional Director resisted the idea; other Directors and the Navy and Air Force both pushed for a liaison. When DoDDS Washington concurred, the USAREUR Commander-in-Chief name-requested me but the DoDDS Director insisted that I also maintain a desk in the DoDDS Germany South office in Karlsruhe. USAREUR accepted that for a while but soon realized that to be credible to their school-hosting installation commanders, the liaison would have to be a full-time USAREUR employee, not a DoDDS employee, so they created such a position to which I was appointed.
My USAREUR duties were not terribly different from my former duties with USDESEA, though I no longer handled press relations. I became a voting member of the European School Advisory Council which met quarterly at one of the command headquarters – Navy in London, USEUCOM in Stuttgart; Air Force in Wiesbaden, later Ramstein; and Army in Heidelberg; and I became a voting member of the Dependent Education Council which met quarterly in the Pentagon. Agendas included issues obtained from school level and subordinate command officials, such as V Corps (Frankfurt), VII Corps (Stuttgart), 21st Support Command (Kaiserslautern), SETAF (Vicenza), and 7th ATC (Grafenwoehr). I continued to meet regularly with the Regional Directors (Wiesbaden, Karlsruhe, London, and Madrid) and with designated school officers at subordinate commands, with Air Force and Navy counterparts, and to attend all the regional conferences of school administrators.
The effectiveness of a liaison officer is almost impossible to quantify. If the number of meetings attended and miles traveled or hotel beds slept in were the chief criteria, the evaluations would go through the roof! But when a school principal needs clarification for his or her installation commander that it’s really the host’s responsibility for school lunch programs, bus transportation and discipline, and for facility maintenance, it’s helpful to have an Army headquarters staffer at his side. Or when a commander or parent committee has concerns about a school issue or employee, it’s useful to bring in opinions from one who has been on the school side to help bring the parties together.
As one who performed liaison duties for twenty years, I can only say the experiences were richly rewarding: because of the caliber of people I met and worked with. The principals and teachers were some of the most imaginative, creative, and dedicated as any I could ever meet; and the military personnel with whom I was surrounded proved over and over how much they honor country, citizen, and duty; and because of being involved with the missions on Freedom’s Frontier with those who served NATO and protected America and Americans.
Not only that, I learned where I could find the best meals near train stations, motor pools, in airports, and along the Autobahns!
by Allen Dale Olson
Tuesday, November 30, 1976, was just like any other day until I got to my office. Joan Tucker, the overseer of all things front office, greeted me by saying I might as well go straight in to see the man as he’s been waiting for you. The man (Doc) was Joseph A. Mason, Director of United States Dependents Schools, European Area (USDESEA).
“Hey, I’m glad you’re here; looks like you’re going have to arrange for the whole AFCENT faculty to go to Washington.” I knew he had spent yesterday with the Directors of the AFCENT school because of a number of problems, but I didn’t expect anything like what he had just said.
AFCENT (Allied Forces Central Command) had been established in Limburg Province, Holland, as part of the relocation of NATO forces from France into northern Germany and Holland and of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Forces from Paris to Brussels in 1966-67. The AFCENT military community, near Brunssum, consisted mostly of Americans, British, Canadian, and German forces with a sprinkling of Dutch, Scandinavian, and Belgian families. It took a couple of years, but a school for the children of those forces was formed as one
complex, with four national units all sharing common areas, each unit headed by a principal with a teaching staff who would assure students received a national education but would jointly receive instruction in art, physical education, languages, and history.
Overall, the arrangement worked well, but in recent weeks there had been complaints that the American section had been using more than its fair share of time in the common areas, especially in the gymnasium and sports fields. In the beginning, that was acceptable because, after all, the Americans were paying the largest share of the common costs, and a little later, as the other nationals were told that the Americans had varsity sports programs with other USDESEA schools that required long hours of practice. Schools in the other nations did not have sports teams. They used their gym and sports field for physical education. Students wanting to play competitive sports joined local municipal or regional clubs.
At yesterday’s meeting, the German and British directors admitted they just did not understand the American school sports programs, and even the Canadian admitted that American schools were far more passionate about their school teams than anyone else.
Rudi Bewer, the former Director of the Free University of Berlin, and then Supervising Administrator of the AFCENT school, at yesterday’s meeting said it was a shame that the non-U.S. teachers could not actually see an American school with all of its many complexities so they could get a better feel for what school life is really like in the States. He thought the American local boards of education and parental involvement with PTAs and school volunteers would be very useful in understanding the American need for so much use of facilities.
Doc said the idea caught on, especially when the Luftwaffe representative opined that he might be able to persuade his Defense Minister to allow the faculty to fly on the daily courier to and from Washington. “I told him that if he could do that, I have the man who can make all the arrangements for school visits in the Washington area.” All the school chiefs excitedly signed up for giving it a try. Now I knew why Doc had been waiting for me that morning.
Next day Rudi called me to say the Ministry of Defense was amenable to providing the plane but needed a few details about the concept and what the teachers would actually do while in Washington. He proposed we plan it over the spring break.
Sunday, December 5, Pan Am took me from Frankfurt to Dulles, and next morning I caught up with John Wherry, Executive Director of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) so we could spend the day conceptualizing with his staff. Because his office was in the building of the National Education Association, where I had worked for several years, I was able to scurry around to see former colleagues and solicit their thoughts.
Tuesday morning, December 7, I met with the manager of the Hotel Harrington on 11th Street NW in downtown D.C. and initiated a contract to house the group in April should the trip materialize. Back at NSPRA, we decided that at least a day would be given to seminar-style meetings and that most of the week would be devoted to visiting schools : Montgomery County as one of the nation’s most affluent school communities; Fairfax County, home to most military families assigned to the area; and Washington, D.C. as an example of struggling inner city schools.
Wednesday morning, I met with Dr. Wesley Carroll, Professor of Education at The George Washington University (and my doctoral advisor) about resources available from GWU. The rest of the day was spent with Ken Muir, Public Affairs Director of the Montgomery County Public Schools and with Jim Hussan, a coordinator of cultural relations studies in Fairfax County and former USDESEA employee. With a bulging notebook, I flew back to Frankfurt and home to USDESEA Headquarters in Karlsruhe.
On January 11, 1977, Rudi called to say he liked the draft concept and that the Luftwaffe plane was almost certain. A week later, in Heidelberg, I called on Lynn Whittacre, Dean of the University of Maryland Campus, Europe, to ask about awarding graduate credit to participating teachers on this study trip. She suggested some possible topics for research papers and said she would certify me as the instructor. While in Heidelberg, I met with USAREUR finance personnel about obtaining fund citations for the U.S. side and got their support for working with the British, Canadian, and German commands for their share.
Doc approved the completed plan on Tuesday, February 8, and on the 11th I drove to AFCENT to review it with Rudi and the four national directors, after which I discussed it with the representatives of the Overseas Education Association and Overseas Federation of Teachers, with whom Rudi had been in continuing contact. Meanwhile, Ken Muir and George Hamil (Montgomery County and Fairfax County) worked on arranging school visits, and John Wherry on locating seminar presenters and D.C. school visits. Read the rest of this entry »
A Virtual Walk Down Memory Lane
Servus! We hope you like our little tribute to our beloved “Cobble Stone Campus.” Almost every object has a link to it–and will take you to a story, song or video. It is not the most elegant presentation, but it is heartfelt. If you enjoy this blast from the past, please look for our museum (Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center) on the web or on Facebook. Or scrounge up some bier money and consider donating to our building fund. As always, we thank you. Prost!
So after class, it’s time to head to the dorm for some studying and then to get ready to head out on the town!
by Allen Dale Olson
When I returned to Porter County, Indiana, in 1956 after a tour in the Army, I came as an assistant basketball coach at the high school where I had played and graduated. The percentage of African-Americans in the county hadn’t changed much, and not at all in my high school. We were still a white farming community, though suburbanization and ultimately town and city status were on the way.
One evening I got an interesting phone call from a coach in another county town. The Harlem Globetrotters were coming, and the caller had been tasked with forming a team to play them. I don’t know who organized the event, but I knew that it was for a charity and that the Globetrotters were the hottest name in basketball in those days.
Because I hadn’t played much during my Army tour I declined to suit up for the game unless some unforeseen emergency hit the roster – nearly all former college players working as coaches in various area high schools.
The game was in Boucher Gymnasium in Valparaiso, the county seat. The Globetrotters were an all-Black superstar team who played the game as entertainers but with such skill that hardly a foe ever beat them. They had even beaten professional teams in Chicago and Green Bay.
Their names suggested their showmanship: Meadow Lark Jones; Goose Tatum, Nathanial Sweetwater Clifton, and so on. These players were the first to dunk, the first to fire from three-point range or even to bounce in a basket or two. Their fakes and no-looks and baffling dribbles not only revealed uncanny skill but also evoked never-ending laughter and applause.
Our team, with the discipline of college experience, tried to keep calm and for a while seemed to give the Trotters a real game. But in the end the head fakes, body blows, and clownish antics carried the evening, and the visitors won by some twenty points, a close game for them.
Formed in the 1920s, the Globetrotters were something of an advance party paving the way for African-Americans to enter major professional sports leagues. While racial integration in 1956 was not fait accompli, those Porter County families and the Globetrotters interacted with humor and good will. There were friendly taunts and outrageous dares, as the Trotters did their part in their unique way to further the Civil Rights movements of post World War II, and the white families who supported them provided evidence that the movement’s time had come.
This is a promotional video from that year, but not from the game I wrote about.
1967 – Christmas. Melloteens go to Berlin for a Music Festival. Everyone goes on the East Berlin Tour except 17-year old Donna, whose Dad was in Security Service. He had been warned that dependents of spies were often detained in the East.
So, there I stood, by myself in the West with all of the colorful Christmas lights looking over the wall to East Berlin, completely grey. Made quite an impression on that impressionable 17-year old girl.
11/9/89 – I stood in front of the television in disbelief, crying, just like I had 22 years before.
Now, as we near the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, I discovered another Apollo 11-related gem…
Before my family & I moved on base we lived in the town of Tamuning for nine months, and while there I used to babysit the three sons of NASA’s director of the Guam tracking station for the Apollo lunar landings, Charles Force, and his wife on several occasions when she’d have to work at the local tv station. One of their sons, Greg, would become instrumental in helping the Apollo 11 crew return safely from their mission:
Flight Plan, page 3-119.
This is Apollo Control at 169 hours, 28 minutes. Apollo 11 is 118,542 nautical miles [219,540 km] from Earth; approaching at a velocity of 5,225 feet per second [1,593 m/s]. Crew is still asleep. Performance of all systems continues to be normal. Midcourse Correction number 6, which was scheduled for an elapsed time of 172 hours, has been canceled. The trajectory is such that it will not be required. From the Manned Space Flight Network we have a report of a contribution to the Apollo 11 mission from a 10-year-old boy in Guam. The Guam tracking station is receiving telemetry from this mission. Had a problem with one if its antennas – a bearing. The bearing was replaced with the assistance of a 10-year-old boy named Greg Force who had arms small enough that he could work through a 2½ inch diameter hole to pack the new bearing. We’re now showing Entry Interface with the Earth’s atmosphere; 25 hours, 33 minutes, 30 seconds from now; and the Green Team of flight controllers led by Cliff Charlesworth is now taking over from Glynn Lunney and his Black Team of flight controllers. This is Mission Control, Houston.
(Greg’s father Charles Force was Director of the Tracking Station on the island of Guam. At about 10pm on July 23rd he recalls his father had him picked up from his home, where he was with his mother and brothers, and brought to the station. A stuck bearing meant the antenna could not move. Greg did not actually replace the bearing, but he greased it through a narrow hole where an adult arm could not reach. That was sufficient to allow the antennae to move again and continue tracking Apollo 11. Greg later met Neil Armstrong, who thanked him in person.) https://history.nasa.gov/afj/ap11fj/24day8-news-checks.html