Liaison Work

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!


We are seeking submissions of stories about schooling on military installations.

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Schooling With Uncle Sam will focus on personal memories–what it was like to work or study in the school system, to live and work in a foreign country or military installation – the mundane, funny, or tragic events and interactions that made for a memorable experience. Stories should be about a certain time, event, or experience about school/work/life with DoDEA (or with its predecessor organizations such as DoDDS, USDESEA, DEG, etc.) Authors included in the anthology will receive a free copy of the book in lieu of payment.  All stories become the property of the Museum of the American Military Family Special Collections Library. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be used to help the Museum continue to bring exhibits and programming to the museum community free of charge.This is a chance to preserve a unique history and to be a part of it. It’s an opportunity to share a personal look at a world-wide school system serving America’s world-wide interests and assuring that your involvement with it will be recognized. You can submit up to three different pieces for the book.


On Having your Senior Year Turned Upside Down


We are seeking submissions of stories about schooling on military installations.

Screen Shot 2020-09-28 at 10.36.00 AM

Schooling With Uncle Sam will focus on personal memories–what it was like to work or study in the school system, to live and work in a foreign country or military installation – the mundane, funny, or tragic events and interactions that made for a memorable experience. Stories should be about a certain time, event, or experience about school/work/life with DoDEA (or with its predecessor organizations such as DoDDS, USDESEA, DEG, etc.) Authors included in the anthology will receive a free copy of the book in lieu of payment.  All stories become the property of the Museum of the American Military Family Special Collections Library. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be used to help the Museum continue to bring exhibits and programming to the museum community free of charge.This is a chance to preserve a unique history and to be a part of it. It’s an opportunity to share a personal look at a world-wide school system serving America’s world-wide interests and assuring that your involvement with it will be recognized. You can submit up to three different pieces for the book.


A.W.O.L. EXHIBITION

by Allen Dale Olson

On the second of January 1992, the university president called me to say he had “volunteered” me. Because the call came to  my home, I knew it was something of great interest to him. “You need to go to Nice next month,” he said.

There can’t be many employees who get to sent to Nice in the middle of winter, I thought.

He had been approached by a London-based event promoter to provide a keynote speaker for a first-time event – a Resort Hotel Exhibition – bringing owners and representatives of luxury hotels from around the world for three days of networking and education in one of the globe’s most popular tourism destinations at the height of Carneval, one of Europe’s grandest festivals. The promoters wanted to tie the business of tourism to the schools of tourism, and Dr. Leibrecht offered his Director of the International School of Tourism for the assignment. He always enjoyed having Schiller International University on stage.

In Strasbourg at daybreak on Tuesday, February 18 I boarded an Air Inter flight to Lyon to connect with another flight arriving in  Nice before noon. The conference was to open next morning.

My room at the Hotel Plaza wasn’t ready so I walked a few blocks to the Akropolis where I could pre-register for the event. The hostess was pleased to see me, saying that registrations had been very slow. I told her the receptionist at the hotel had also said that I was the first convention-goer to sign in at the Plaza. She did not seem pleased with that information.

After a leisurely lunch at la Dent de la Mer and a stroll through Vieux Nice, I returned to the registration desk where I learned only a few attendees had signed in. Having no commitments, I was free to visit the elegant salons and picture galleries of the Hotel Negresco and to set up a vantage point on Place Massene to watch the great Mardi Grasparade, a spectacle worthy of its world-class reputation.

Wednesday, February 19 – Speech in hand, I walked to the auditorium of the Akropolis eager to get the keynoting over with and enjoy Nice. Though it was still an hour till start time, it seemed there should be more than thirty or so people in the auditorium, nearly all of whom were involved in working on light and sound systems, wall hangings, and other busy work. A notice flashed on the screen on stage announcing that the morning general session would follow the Organizers’ Reception at 1:00 pm.

There were some impressive displays set up in the Exhibit Hall – things like miniature golf courses, indoor gymnasia, spas and saunas, boat docks, lobby furniture, and the like. Overhearing American English, I approached and met Patrick Willis from a heating system company in Wisconsin. He was furious.

“I spent more than $20,000 to bring my display and five staff members here, and they’re telling me only about 50 people have registered for the whole darn conference,” he said. Other exhibitors told similar tales. One of them said the organizers had sent urgent invitations out to spa and resort owners along the Riviera Coast in the hope of getting some attendees, but so far the response had been negligible.

At the organizers’ reception I met John Knight, a professor from Purdue, who had been invited to address the general session following the reception. He, too, had been hearing angry reports from exhibitors about the lack of attendance. After some snacks and a glass of champagne, John and I headed to the auditorium to find every seat occupied – by irate exhibitors screaming for the heads of the promotion company. It was obvious they were in no mood to hear John’s speech.

One of the promoters got the group quiet enough to apologize and to explain how the company had really fouled up by failing to get invitations mailed and distributed for reasons beyond their comprehension. After that, there was little civil discourse, as exhibitors began shouting in English, German, French, Italian about refunds, law suits, criminal charges, fraud, and other crimes which may or may not have been relevant.

Security officers managed to restore sufficient order so the event promotors could explain they would set up an office in the convention center where exhibitors could meet and try to work out a solution to all their expenses and concerns. They pronounced the Exhibition and Conference program over.

On the way out, one of the exhibitors invited John and me to a champagne reception in the Royal Salon of the Hotel Negresco that evening.  In spite of their anger, the exhibitors hosted an elegant little party in an elegant place.

Thursday, February 20 – Caught the 9:05 am Air-Inter to Paris-Orly from where I called my boss before boarding the Strasbourg flight.

Postlude – A couple years later I met John on the Purdue Campus at Fort Wayne where we  reminisced about what could surely qualify as anyone’s oddest trip to Nice. Neither of us had ever heard about how it all turned out.

 

 


We are seeking submissions of stories about schooling on military installations.

Screen Shot 2020-09-28 at 10.36.00 AM

Schooling With Uncle Sam will focus on personal memories–what it was like to work or study in the school system, to live and work in a foreign country or military installation – the mundane, funny, or tragic events and interactions that made for a memorable experience. Stories should be about a certain time, event, or experience about school/work/life with DoDEA (or with its predecessor organizations such as DoDDS, USDESEA, DEG, etc.) Authors included in the anthology will receive a free copy of the book in lieu of payment.  All stories become the property of the Museum of the American Military Family Special Collections Library. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be used to help the Museum continue to bring exhibits and programming to the museum community free of charge.This is a chance to preserve a unique history and to be a part of it. It’s an opportunity to share a personal look at a world-wide school system serving America’s world-wide interests and assuring that your involvement with it will be recognized. You can submit up to three different pieces for the book.


AFCENT FIELD TRIP

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 »


We are seeking submissions of stories about schooling on military installations.

Screen Shot 2020-09-28 at 10.36.00 AM

Schooling With Uncle Sam will focus on personal memories–what it was like to work or study in the school system, to live and work in a foreign country or military installation – the mundane, funny, or tragic events and interactions that made for a memorable experience. Stories should be about a certain time, event, or experience about school/work/life with DoDEA (or with its predecessor organizations such as DoDDS, USDESEA, DEG, etc.) Authors included in the anthology will receive a free copy of the book in lieu of payment.  All stories become the property of the Museum of the American Military Family Special Collections Library. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be used to help the Museum continue to bring exhibits and programming to the museum community free of charge.This is a chance to preserve a unique history and to be a part of it. It’s an opportunity to share a personal look at a world-wide school system serving America’s world-wide interests and assuring that your involvement with it will be recognized. You can submit up to three different pieces for the book.


TELLING THE STORY OF MILITARY FAMILIES

As the only museum in the country dedicated to collecting and preserving the stories, documents, photographs, and artifacts of the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and spouses of those who serve and have served in America’s military, the Museum of the American Military Family (MAMF)includes a permanent exhibition about the history of DoDEA since its founding and a collection of  teacher-collected artifacts from around the world.

Founded by former DoDEA teacher and student, Circe Olson Woessner is the daughter of long-time DoDEA staffer and WWII veteran and is a military wife and mother and brings a realistic and enriching perspective to the unique challenges and achievements of military families.

Besides presenting permanent and revolving exhibits about the life style of military family members and the educators who support them, MAMF conducts town hall meetings about military and military veteran issues and interacts with a world-wide audience through a variety of social media and through a series of audio and video podcasts.

MAMF has been recognized in each of the past three years with Awards of Excellence by the American Association of State and Local History including an Albert Corey Award for exceptionally distinguished programming. It is affiliated with the American Alliance of Museums, the New Mexico Association of Museums, and the Museum Collaborative Council of Albuquerque.

MAMF’s Operation Footlocker is a mini mobile museum treasure chest of memories donated by military families, military brats, and teachers from the overseas schools of the Defense Department. The fleet of eight footlockers travels around the USA – to brat functions, to schools, to libraries, to teacher and military reunions – anywhere people gather who want to learn more about the military family experience.

Dr. Woessner is now looking forward to next October and the 75th anniversary of the establishments of DoDEA schools around the world. She is planning to publish an anthology of stories by teachers, past and present, about their unique experiences teaching and working in civilian-type schools on military installations throughout the States and around the world. Through DoDEA and MAMF websites, she will issue a call for stories along with guidelines for submission in October 2020.

MAMF has already published a series of such anthologies: War Child, a collection of stories by adults who grew up as children in a war zone; Front Lines to the Homefront, stories by adults reflecting on their experiences in or around war; On Freedom’s Frontier: Life on the Fulda Gap, stories by veterans and family members who lived and worked along one of the world’s most sensitive potential battlegrounds.

Their anthology SHOUT! Sharing our Truth, by LGBT veterans and veteran family members about their service in the military before and after Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, has been produced as a play performed in Richmond, Virginia, and scheduled for performances in San Francisco and Providence next year. MAMF has also turned the anthology into a documentary film.

Visit website www.militaryfamilymuseum.org to learn more about MAMF and what it is doing to honor military families and the schools that serve them and to provide a place for scholars to learn the history of the millions of families who have also “served” our country.


Happy 103rd Birthday Doris Baker!

On September 23, 2020, HMOR Ms. Doris C. Baker was presented a Special Forces Flag by SFA Chapter 84 member Chad Rogers in honor of her (Friday September 25th) 103rd Birthday. She was wearing her special SF necklace and autographed a copy of her book “The Originals” for Chad.