Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Service of Cold War Warriors

 

When we meditate on Service, we should pause and say a quiet “thank you” to the people that fought the Cold War.

My father was a Cold War-era CIA guy. Not a debonair, tuxedo-wearing, sneak-upstairs-to-crack-the-safe-for-the-super-secret-codes-during-the-Ambassador’s-cocktail-party CIA guy. He was a communicator. As my father told me countless times growing up, and then I heard about a bajillion times after I joined the Army, it doesn’t matter how awesome the intel is if you can’t push it up and out to the people that can use it. He and his cohort were hard-working, hard-drinking, knuckle-scarred hard cases, and they would–by God–get the intel out.

Many have forgotten how evil the Soviet empire was. We tend today to think “yeah, there was the Soviet Union, and it sucked. But then it fell, and we’re awesome and will be awesome in perpetuity.”

If a “hot” war is artillery and air support and the employment of mass echelons of troops, the Cold War was knife-fighting in a dark back alley bumping into overfilled garbage cans and knowing there is no help coming and no emergency room available if one took a slash.

My father was a Cold War warrior. He had a … dysfunctional relationship with his own father, so my grandmother signed the paperwork for him to enlist at 17. He joined the Air Force. In Vietnam, he started doing more work with Another Government Agency and less with the Air Force. Wounded in a country that was not Vietnam, but was very, very close to Vietnam, he was sent to Okinawa to convalesce. There, he met my mom, who was a missionary teacher. First time she ever left the great state of Texas was to go to Okinawa.

Later, my dad took a job preparing Okinawa for Operation Ox Cart, the CIA’s development and deployment of the SR-71. He took the job mostly so he could get back to, woo, and then marry my mother. Mom spent the first year and a half of her marriage with a go-bag packed, knowing that whenever Dad greenlighted the facility he was building they’d have to be off the island in 24 hours. Dad had already put plenty of noses out of joint, running around base with a warrant to do whatever the heck he wanted, with top priority. Senior officers who put obstacles in his way either out of bureaucratic churlishness or probing (recon-by-fire kind of probing) curiosity got calls from super-senior officers to sit down, shut up, and do whatever they could to facilitate Welsh’s mission accomplishment. None of Dad’s bosses wanted anyone trying to corral and interrogate the young Tech Sergeant when Ox Cart went operational on Okie.

One time, after I’d gotten my TS/SCI clearance bona fides, and I was an instructor at the SFQC, I read a book about the exploits of Green Berets in Vietnam. The book, SOG, was by John Plaster. In it, he wrote about the Chinese Air Transport (CAT) organization that the CIA had set up to run infiltrations into North Vietnam. Looking at the timeline of CAT, I remembered that during that time, we’d been stationed in Taiwan. And, I remembered some coffee mugs the Old Man had that looked like a funky cat, Bill-the-Cat style.

I called the Old Man, and asked about Chinese Air Transport and whether it had anything to do with our tour in Taiwan, to which the Old Man replied, “What’s your source?” Da, it’s an open-source book about the history of special operations in Vietnam.

“I’ll get back to you.” Click. If there was one thing Da was unparalleled at, it was OPSEC. Couple days later, he called me back. “Yep, that were us. We not only ran the infils into North Vietnam, we also ran the U2 missions over China. That funky-looking cat you remember? That was the profile from the rear of a U2. The whiskers were the wings, those glowing eyes were the afterburners.” Okay. Cool. Thanks, Da. Anything else you can tell me? Nope.

Dad took part in numerous operations of which he played a small part, but each, to his mind, justified a career with the CIA. Now, I understand that. One I’m going to awkwardly wedge in here, he had a piece of the Glomar Explorer.

When we were in Africa, a tour that set the course for my life, the Old Man got orders that his follow-on tour would be in Moscow. My brother and I were high-fiving each other. Not because we were Moscow bound, but because back then, in the bad old days, children of USG employees stationed in Moscow went to the American School in Switzerland. Oh, yeah, we were going to rock the Swiss. The Old Man, though, figured that when your kids get to the point that they don’t want to go back to the States, it’s time to go back to the States.

Shortly after he made that call, he got sent to Chad. Apparently Chad and Libya were having a war. The Old Man was sent out there to train the Chadian scouts in both tactics and comms. The Chadian scout screen would see where the Libyans were coming from, the Chadians would mass everything they had at that one point in space and time, and battle the Libyans to a standstill. Then the Libyans would pull back, and the Chadian scouts would continue to monitor.

This is the Old Man, with his boys, getting ready to go back out on the screen line:

A mentor of mine, a retired SF guy that had worked with my Da back in Africa, saw this picture and said, “Well, I see your Dad, but who’s that white guy?”

At Dad’s funeral, a guy approached me and explained that he had worked for my Dad, and had written him up for an award. He gave me a copy of the write-up, which reads thus:

It is with great pleasure that I nominate Mr. William B. Welsh as the OC Beacon representative of the proud past of the Office of Communications. From the moment he first stepped onto the airport tarmac for his first assignment, to the time of his retirement in 1996, Mr. Welsh distinguished himself with his dedication to the mission, superior judgment, outstanding people skills, and unparalleled courage of his convictions.

In his first assignment, Bill was dispatched to terra incognita–and thrived, serving as an operator in a third world country, in a role akin to a new tightrope walker working without a net. Three years later, he saw his first (“annual”) performance appraisal report, written by a manager who was not briefed into the program. Subsequently, Bill found himself in the middle of a war, without another American in sight. In each assignment, regardless of the difficulty or ambiguity of the situation, he served the mission in an outstanding manner. As his career progressed, he willingly traveled anywhere to meet the needs of the service, taking his growing family with him to assignments in various foreign locations.

It was during Mr. Welsh’s final assignment with the OC that I had the pleasure of serving with him. Each day, he projected a powerful example of what an OC officer and manager should be. He was decisive and bold, yet insightful. Although Bill was known to bellow out, usually with humor, when emphasizing a point, he set the tone for a workplace where all were respected and supported. In daily exchanges with Bill, there was an honesty and lighthearted manner that made it a true pleasure to work for him. He abhorred micromanagement, and truly listened to his employees, coaching them as needed and turning them loose to achieve results. On those infrequent occasions when a mistake would be made, Bill would coach us to identify the source of the problem, provide any guidance or other help necessary to resolve it, and ensure that we all learned from it. Mistakes were never covered up, and were never used to unfairly castigate an employee. Performance issues were not ignored; however, they were resolved in a firm but fair manner. In his Office, Mr. Welsh had a sign prominently displayed, admonishing all to “BE POSITIVE, BE PROACTIVE, OR BEGONE!” From the onset, he clearly communicated his expectation that we would come into his office with proposed solutions, not simply a statement of the problem. In his dealings with our many customers, Mr. Welsh was always supportive of them yet was never intimidated. His leadership was recognized and appreciated by all who worked with him, as indicated by the GS-14s and GS-15s, Majors and Colonels, who would seek his counsel to resolve thorny problems.

Bill Welsh never feared or loathed the next generation; he hired and trained them! He led our recruiting efforts when our people were very unpopular on college campuses. Despite the adversity, he still brought gifted employees into Commo. As a manager he was supportive of his employees, valuing each one as a person and as a contributor to the mission. He ensured that all were provided with timely performance feedback, and he was a tireless advocate for his people in evaluation panels, ensuring that a number of his staff received well-deserved promotions or awards. Through his example, he instilled in his employees the need to recognize their subordinates for exceptional work.

With much admiration, I nominate Bill Welsh as OC BEACON. His commitment to outstanding customer service, his exceptional leadership, and faithful support set the standard to which those around him aspired. The example that he presented each day was a powerful influence upon those around him, bringing out the very best in each of us. Bill’s forceful presence, resourcefulness, and commitment were inspirational, transforming those around him into the very best employees we could be.

Many awards write-ups are 90 percent fluff, but when I read this I thought, “Yeah, sounds exactly like the Old Man.”

He, and the countless other Cold Warriors I knew from our globetrotting, deserve a nod. They busted their collective ass.

And the Soviet Union is no more.

Published in General
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There are 23 comments.

  1. She Thatcher
    She

    Outstanding post. Outstanding Dad. Thanks.

    • #1
    • November 17, 2019, at 4:15 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  2. PHCheese Member

    Which one was your dad in the picture Boss?

    • #2
    • November 17, 2019, at 4:36 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  3. Mark Camp Member

    She (View Comment):

    Outstanding post.

    Amen. In the Rico category “personal history”, best in memory.

    She (View Comment):

    Outstanding Dad. Thanks.

    Agree.

    • #3
    • November 17, 2019, at 4:44 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  4. Kevin Schulte Member

    Thanks Boss for the tribute to a great man. 

    • #4
    • November 17, 2019, at 5:03 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  5. Percival Thatcher

    You can’t ride around in the bed of a truck like that. That’s dangerous.

    I recall reading about the Scouts bouncing around the desert in Toyota mini-pickup trucks with MILAN anti-tank missile launchers bolted to the roof of the cab. They sounded like the Rat Patrol.

    • #5
    • November 17, 2019, at 5:18 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  6. Gary McVey Contributor

    Ricochet needs a special app that wakes me up at 0400 to alert me to posts of this quality. Clearly, the military apple has not fallen far from the intel tree. What a man your father was. 

    • #6
    • November 17, 2019, at 6:05 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  7. Hang On Member

    Great post about your dad.

    The civil war in Chad was going on when I was next door in Cameroun. Was doing two different projects in the north within 50 km of the border. (Chad’s capital abutts the border with Cameroun. Parts of the year there is a river but the two times I went it was dry.) I would see the Soviet ambassador from time to time rushing up and down the road in his black Mercedes with hammer and cycle flag flying. I always made a point of noting time and place I saw him. When I would go to Yaounde would make a point of handing over information to the military attache at the embassy. And any rumor of what was happening. Probably old news by that time. One of the times a Libyan plane with an East German pilot had been shot down and the pilot captured. The Soviet ambassador was doing everything he could to get the pilot released. The French Foreign Legion was helping the Cameroun military with the missiles. The leader of the Chadian rebels was very charismatic. And the French took particular interest because the first outpost to defect from Vichy to the Free French was in Chad.

    • #7
    • November 17, 2019, at 6:30 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  8. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    An outstanding remembrance of a real Cold Warrior.

    This is part of our November series on the theme: “Service.” Thanks to all who signed up, filling all the days without excessive nagging.

    Not on the roster? Feel free to roll out a bonus post!

    • #8
    • November 17, 2019, at 6:33 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  9. Clavius Thatcher

    Did he work or were you ever based at Camp Chinen in Okinawa? My Dad was in the special service and that’s where we lived when he worked in Saigon.

    • #9
    • November 17, 2019, at 10:30 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  10. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    Boss, I’ve always wondered how the CIA went wrong. I used to think the CIA was people like your Dad – consummate professionals willing to do whatever it takes to serve their country. I figured there was a lot of stuff that I probably did not want to hear about, but I trusted that they would remain loyal to the country.

    Nowadays, when you hear about guys from the CIA, you hear about people acting as if they ran the country, and combining laughable tradecraft with the mindset of the worst DC bureaucrat. (If this civilian knows more about tradecraft from watching Burn Notice than supposed spooks, we are in trouble) Please tell me there are more of your Dad’s style of CIA, otherwise we might as well shut it down and turn Langley into luxury condos.

    • #10
    • November 17, 2019, at 11:36 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  11. Judge Mental Member

    Good stuff, Boss. Although, it sounds like maybe you have called yourself, Son of Mongo.

    • #11
    • November 18, 2019, at 3:51 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  12. Arahant Member

    Quite a tribute, Boss.

    • #12
    • November 18, 2019, at 5:50 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  13. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo Post author

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Boss, I’ve always wondered how the CIA went wrong. I used to think the CIA was people like your Dad – consummate professionals willing to do whatever it takes to serve their country. I figured there was a lot of stuff that I probably did not want to hear about, but I trusted that they would remain loyal to the country.

    Nowadays, when you hear about guys from the CIA, you hear about people acting as if they ran the country, and combining laughable tradecraft with the mindset of the worst DC bureaucrat. (If this civilian knows more about tradecraft from watching Burn Notice than supposed spooks, we are in trouble) Please tell me there are more of your Dad’s style of CIA, otherwise we might as well shut it down and turn Langley into luxury condos.

    Not sure, OP.

    To me, any person working for any agency within the I-495 Beltway is automatically suspect.

    • #13
    • November 18, 2019, at 6:06 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  14. Stad Thatcher

    What a dad!

    I was in the Navy during the Cold War. When the government came up with that Cold War certificate, I sent off for it and eventually received it. I don’t put it on display (no “love me” wall in the Stad household), but it is fun knowing I have it.

    • #14
    • November 18, 2019, at 6:39 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Wow. Awesome man, Boss. Thanks for sharing him with us.

    • #15
    • November 18, 2019, at 6:55 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  16. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo Post author

    I didn’t want to make the OP too large or unwieldy, so I figured I’d round out my thoughts in the comments.

    The Chad mission pictured above just about killed the Old Man. He was operating long-term in a very austere environment with lots of dangers–from the Libyans to the microbes. When he returned to Liberia, he went to our apartment right outside the Embassy compound–and collapsed.

    When he didn’t show for debriefing the next morning (not like him, at all), his workmates tried raising him by radio (we didn’t have phones). Mom and us lads had already PCS’d back to the States. When the radio didn’t get him, they went to the apartment–of course the key control system was in disarray–and wound up breaking down the door.

    While they coordinated for a MEDEVAC flight to Germany, they brought him to Monrovia’s John F. Kennedy hospital, which the Liberians accurately called the Just For Killing hospital. The only memory he had was of having a seizure, and his thrashing pulled the IV catheter out of his hand. He watched, unable to protest or even talk, as the “nurse” picked up the catheter off the floor, popped it into his mouth and dragged it back out to clean off any dirt, and jammed it back in his hand. “Well,” thought the Old Man, “that isn’t going to end well.”

    The MEDEVAC bird (an AF C-130) arrived the next day, and they got him out to Germany, but not before his hand had swollen to the size of a basketball. I saw a picture, and you couldn’t even distinguish the fingers.

    He had infections, parasites and afflictions that US docs had never even seen before.

    Decades later, still trying to get back to “right,” Dad’s internal medicine specialist, told him the happy news that the Doc’s wife was pregnant with twins. He said, “I’m going to name them Lexus and Mercedes; I was able to afford both those vehicles just on the work of done on you.”

    When he finally passed, had he been a Civil War fighter, the cause of death would have been “died of wounds.”

    • #16
    • November 18, 2019, at 7:47 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  17. Kevin Schulte Member

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    I didn’t want to make the OP too large or unwieldy, so I figured I’d round out my thoughts in the comments.

    The Chad mission pictured above just about killed the Old Man. He was operating long-term in a very austere environment with lots of dangers–from the Libyans to the microbes. When he returned to Liberia, he went to our apartment right outside the Embassy compound–and collapsed.

    When he didn’t show for debriefing the next morning (not like him, at all), his workmates tried raising him by radio (we didn’t have phones). Mom and us lads had already PCS’d back to the States. When the radio didn’t get him, they went to the apartment–of course the key control system was in disarray–and wound up breaking down the door.

    While they coordinated for a MEDEVAC flight to Germany, they brought him to Monrovia’s John F. Kennedy hospital, which the Liberians accurately called the Just For Killing hospital. The only memory he had was of having a seizure, and his thrashing pulled the IV catheter out of his hand. He watched, unable to protest or even talk, as the “nurse” picked up the catheter off the floor, popped it into his mouth and dragged it back out to clean off any dirt, and jammed it back in his hand. “Well,” thought the Old Man, “that isn’t going to end well.”

    The MEDEVAC bird (an AF C-130) arrived the next day, and they got him out to Germany, but not before his hand had swollen to the size of a basketball. I saw a picture, and you couldn’t even distinguish the fingers.

    He had infections, parasites and afflictions that US docs had never even seen before.

    Decades later, still trying to get back to “right,” Dad’s internal medicine specialist, told him the happy news that the Doc’s wife was pregnant with twins. He said, “I’m going to name them Lexus and Mercedes; I was able to afford both those vehicles just on the work of done on you.”

    When he finally passed, had he been a Civil War fighter, the cause of death would have been “died of wounds.”

    How old was the warrior when he passed Boss ? 

    • #17
    • November 18, 2019, at 8:09 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo Post author

    Kevin, he was 73.

    • #18
    • November 18, 2019, at 8:23 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  19. Arahant Member

    Back in the late fifties, my father was in Germany. He would be locked in a cage inside of a locked building. What he did had something to do with cryptography, although he never really said much about it. Again, the Cold War.

    • #19
    • November 18, 2019, at 8:30 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  20. Chris Hutchinson Coolidge

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Boss, I’ve always wondered how the CIA went wrong. I used to think the CIA was people like your Dad – consummate professionals willing to do whatever it takes to serve their country. I figured there was a lot of stuff that I probably did not want to hear about, but I trusted that they would remain loyal to the country.

    Nowadays, when you hear about guys from the CIA, you hear about people acting as if they ran the country, and combining laughable tradecraft with the mindset of the worst DC bureaucrat. (If this civilian knows more about tradecraft from watching Burn Notice than supposed spooks, we are in trouble) Please tell me there are more of your Dad’s style of CIA, otherwise we might as well shut it down and turn Langley into luxury condos.

    Not sure, OP.

    To me, any person working for any agency within the I-495 Beltway is automatically suspect.

    For various reasons, it’s no doubt right to be suspect but I think the Pike and Church Commissions, and the subsequent TV persona that developed from them is ridiculously off the mark. No worries, OP… the great majority of CIA and all throughout the intel community are indeed “consummate professionals willing to do whatever it takes to serve their country.” State Department is the only government organization that I have my doubts about when it comes to that.

    • #20
    • November 20, 2019, at 11:19 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  21. Chris Hutchinson Coolidge

    Boss Mongo: If there was one thing Da was unparalleled at, it was OPSEC.

    Great story, as usual, and a fantastic tribute to your dad… that award write-up and your post!

    This OPSEC part reminds me of a friend who came up in conversation over the weekend. Short story, long… a bit of a backstory before getting to the point. We had a guest on Sunday. I hadn’t met him in person before. We were introduced by a mutual and trusted friend. He was in Poland on business and looking to cooperate with my company. When we were hashing out our weekend schedule, I mentioned I was busy most of Sunday with church. I was pleasantly surprised when he asked if he could join us at church. Later, we had some really great conversation with a lot of shared experiences and mutual friends. Some of those shared experiences weren’t so good and we talked lot about how God has been playing a huge role in our lives and how different things might have been if God had played more of a role back when we were serving.

    I told him I really loved hearing about military guys who had turned to Christ after wild times and it reminded me of another great conversation with a longtime buddy who had visited me in Poland last year. I said, “the guy who caught Saddam.” He gave me a bit of a look and I quickly clarified the interrogator, not the guy who pulled him out of the hole. He said, “Oh, you know Eric?”

    Eric and I had gone to Ranger School together but got really close years later while doing the Chinese course together at DLI. He was instrumental in helping me get through my divorce. He was indeed a great listener even back then but I admit there was also a lot of drinking and other shenanigans that got me in quite a bit of trouble. After all we had been through back in the day, it was great be able to talk with him about God’s love, mercy and grace, and realize how far we came because of it.

    So, back to OPSEC… even though Eric and I are really close, I never had a clue he was “the guy who caught Saddam” until 7-8 years later AFTER he wrote his book.

    • #21
    • November 20, 2019, at 11:25 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  22. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo Post author

    Chris Hutchinson (View Comment):
    State Department is the only government organization that I have my doubts about when it comes to that.

    Cuba, which recruits heavily in our colleges for people to eventually be well-placed spies, admonishes its young recruits to join the State Department; its the only national security alphabet bureau that does not conduct CI polygraphs.

    • #22
    • November 20, 2019, at 11:28 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  23. Chris Hutchinson Coolidge

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Chris Hutchinson (View Comment):
    State Department is the only government organization that I have my doubts about when it comes to that.

    Cuba, which recruits heavily in our colleges for people to eventually be well-placed spies, admonishes its young recruits to join the State Department; its the only national security alphabet bureau that does not conduct CI polygraphs.

    I didn’t realize that but I am really not surprised at all.

    • #23
    • November 20, 2019, at 11:35 AM PST
    • 3 likes