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A Discussion of Service of the Peace Corps and the Military

Peace Corps Online

Read the dialog between RPCVs Joanne Marie Roll and Bob Paul below

By Sharon, Ghana 94-97 ( on Wednesday, August 24, 2005 - 11:37 am: Edit Post

In fact, all former CIA agents *are* barred from *ever* joining Peace Corps. Why is that? Obviously lines do need to be drawn. When I was a volunteer in Ghana there was one US Army person stationed in country. Our CD FORBADE us from socializing with him lest it be thought that PCVs were somehow affiliated with the military.

How did this alliance and agreement come about in the first place? My understanding is that PC is an independent agency, so who agreed to ally with the military?

I will say...on the flip side...if Peace Corps has an agreement and affiliation with the military, I hope that RPCVs finally get real benefits after service. Why shouldn't we get all the post-service breaks that military receive? We have served our country. Perhaps their work is dangerous. Our work does not provide access to a working phone or other Americans with whom to speak English or food that is familiar or showers. Both services involve hardship and, right now, are voluntary. PCVs die every year--in my country of service it was usually from drowning. Volunteers from other countries were not prepared or adequately warned about the rip tides. Many also die in transportation accidents. What is available for transportation is often unsafe. In another country I visited, part of their training was guidelines for hitch-hiking because that was the best way to get around. Public transport didn't even exist!

Personally, I think affiliation with the military will put PCVs and the entire program at risk. Distinction has been in place for years. Why change it at this particular point in time?

By Charlie Lafave (69-160-217-145.clvdoh.adelphia.net - on Wednesday, August 24, 2005 - 3:59 pm: Edit Post

When I was a PCV in a remote post in Central Africa, I was accused more than once of being CIA. Of course, it wasn't true, and I could point out that no one who had recent military or CIA service could be a PCV. I would have had a much tougher time silencing my accusers if I had to say, "Well, yes, some PCVs just got out of the military, but I didn't." And though I lived in a pro-US country, I can only imagine how difficult this might have been had I been stationed somewhere where there was real antagonism toward the US and its people. So, for both non-military PCVs and ex-military PCVs, I think it's safer to keep the military out of the Peace Corps.

As for the argument about trying to keep the Peace Corps limited to Ivy League elitists, well I can only say that the author didn't serve where I was posted. Yes, there was one grad from Harvard, and another from Yale ... and about 80 others with varied educational backgrounds, some who had only graduated from high school. So, as self-evident as that argument seems to be to the Mr. McCarthy, it just wasn't true in Gabon from 1981 to 1983.

By Penny Fields, RPCV Gabon (70-56-81-29.tukw.qwest.net - on Thursday, August 25, 2005 - 12:38 am: Edit Post

Many members of my family served in the military, including my father who served in Korea and Vietnam. As a young adult I deliberately chose to path of serving my country in the Peace Corps rather than the military. For me, that choice was a strong statement about what I believe. There are many other "creative" ways our government can permit young men and women to complete military service in an effort to convince them to shore up dwindling troop levels. The Peace Corps should not be one of them.

By Leo Cecchini (64-169-40-186.ded.pacbell.net - on Thursday, August 25, 2005 - 1:45 pm: Edit Post

As a PCV I taught at a high school in Asmara, Eritrea (then Ethiopia). There was a very visible US military intelligence installation in the same town and we were instructed to keep a distance from the installation and the GIs in order to prevent our hosts from thinking there were any direct connections between us. After two years of avoiding contact with my fellow Americans some of my students asked me to secure some athletic equipment for their club. I said what they wanted could not be found in the town. They replied that it could be bought at the post exchange in the US installation. I countered that I had no access to the installation and its facilities. They finally replied, "why not you live there."

Following my Peace Corps service I was a US Diplomat and as such worked in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and did a stint in Vietnam were I worked closley with the US military and in fact was deputy commander of a military advisory unit. None of this detracted from my service in the Corps.

No matter how much distance we put between the Peace Corps and other parts of the US Government, and let us not forget that the Peace Corps is a US Government agency, you will always have those who see it as part and parcel of the US presence. So what?

Leo Cecchini
RPCV, Asmara, Eritrea 1962-64

By Anonymous ( - on Friday, August 26, 2005 - 4:21 pm: Edit Post

He who allows the Wolf to guard the sheep will have plenty of wool but no meat for the winter.
Be real the spooks can't wait to ruin PC reputation. The military hated us in Colombia, as did all the other US agencies. They knew we were clean and they weren't. It's as simple as that.
PC should be on the level of a Priest conversation in the confessional.Above question PC reputation is all the volunteer has to live with. Don't let them soil it--- No, No, No to war people who want to use PC as a wolf in sheep clothing. Stand up and be a man not a sneak who's the terroist Now when we adapt their tactics you become one of them. How ugly do we want to become.

By Bob Paul (snowshoebob) ( on Sunday, September 04, 2005 - 4:20 am: Edit Post

Interesting discussions and very heartfelt. I also have a perspective on this issue. First, I was a volunteer in Kenya (87-89) Maybe 8 years later i joined the army reserve. i recently returned from baghdad where i did civil affairs "missions" for a tour of duty, this was much shorter than my two year tour with the Peace Corps. Probably just as dangerous considering i did not get killed in either location and came close more often than i probaby realized. Granted, I came very close in Baghdad.

The military has many different jobs. there are some that are spy type jobs and there are some that are strickly combat arms. Many more jobs exist that do not encompass either of those skill sets. For instance, civil affairs. I was very good at my job in the army as a civil affairs specialist. Much of my skill at working with community groups was learned directly from my Peace Corps experience.

Personally, i think it would be reprehensible to allow a person who volunteered to serve their country, for whatever reason, as a soldier to get any type of priority over a person who applied to the peace corps "off the street". (I also was a Peace Corps Placement Officer for about four years in Washington).

I think a person who joined the military to end their contract service with the peace corps is probably joining for the huge educational and/or monetary benefits that are being offered now to join the military. It would appear to me that such a person is not really sincere in their commitment and is hoping the Peace Corps is somehow a lot easier and a lot safer. I would be tempted to send one or two over just to teach them a lesson.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Monday, September 05, 2005 - 10:57 am: Edit Post

I don't believe in questioning the motives of anyone joining the Peace Corps. I am concerned that the provisions allowing soldiers to complete their military obligation by joining the Peace Corps, does not exclude those soldiers who had "spy jobs." Soldiers who have a civil affairs MOS (and that may be an old term) may also be in the business of gathering intelligence; debriefing refugees, identifying community leaders and/or former members of outlawed political parties. So I have a question, for you , Bob. If you were reassigned to Iraq, now, as a Peace Corps volunteer, would you have information which would be valuable to a terrorist? This is not retorical; I would really value your opinion. Thanks.

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) ( on Thursday, September 08, 2005 - 5:38 am: Edit Post

Information valuable to a terrorist? They pretty much know all there is to know from watching us and surfing the internet. I never knew any information that was critical or sensitive. I just drove around helping community groups work toward common civil goals like trash cleanup, sewage repair, potable water issues, and participating in a public meetings. It was all very simple, except that people tried to kill us. It seemed to me that terrorists wanted to kill or maim any and every government representative to send their message.

I am not exactly in favor of transitioning any military personnel into the Peace Corps as some right in their military enlistment contract. I do believe the applicant pool should be fair and select the best candidate rather than favor any political agenda. Be that military or otherwise.

I think there are a few people in the military who would make outstanding Peace Corps volunteers and they should be allowed to compete for these very scarce Peace Corps assignments without predjudice from being active or reserve military IF they have not taken the spy job.

Basically, I would not merely reject any military person due to the fact that they are in the military. I certainly would not make any military person a peace corps volunteer just because they want to be one.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Thursday, September 08, 2005 - 9:36 pm: Edit Post

Thank you for your reply. I would assume that knowing who to trust and how to protect yourself is critical information. How did you do that? Did you ever have to interrograte civilivans or arrest them? The activities you describe are identical to what PCVs do in community development Except for the physical threat, how was it different in Iraq than in Kenya? Central to the debate over having IRRs (Inactive Ready Reserve) serve in the Peace Corps is the whole issue of trust. As a soldier in Iraq, how did you get people to trust you or was the focus more on building infrastructure? Were "spy" soldiers ever assigned to the civil affairs missions? (There is no restriction on "spy" soldiers serving in the peace corps under this new provision.)

After having been a soldier in Iraq, could you safetly go back to Iraq as a Peace
Corps volunteer? I think you are an incredibly valuable resource because you have been in Peace Corps and then as a soldier dealing with the contemporary situation in Iraq. I feel as if I can learn alot from what you have to say. I hope you will write more about your experiences. Thank you.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Friday, September 09, 2005 - 10:27 am: Edit Post

Bob, let me give an example of what might be important information that a soldier would have. And, again, I speak from a stateside perspective and know just what I get from the main media. Correct me if I am wrong.
One "talking head" on a Sunday show said the press can not find out if the US is building permanet bases in Iraq or not. I would think that soliders who have served in Iraq would know about base building. They would know the "scuttlebutt" about what is going on. They would know what kind of supplies are being used and timelines for possible completion and they might know other stuff which would be "human intel" and help terrorists decipher American intentions. That is the kind of information I am talking about.

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) ( on Saturday, September 10, 2005 - 9:38 pm: Edit Post

There are only a couple of differences between serving as a Civil Affairs specialist in Iraq and a Community Development Technician is Kenya.

First, i iraq i traveled with a team and we were armed. We drove in a couple of busted up Hummvees. I had a group of from six to eight soldiers (lost a couple to roadside bomb attacks, but they did not die.) In Kenya, I was alone and had no need for any type of weapon. I did have a mountain bike.

Second, in iraq, I had lots and lots of money. This made getting projects done a whole heckuva lot easier because we were basically ordered to improve infrastructure from city sewage to classrooms with a warehouse full of money that we captured from Saddam. (we United States, not me personnally.) The only stipulation was that the project had to have community benefit and the money was to be paid directly to the Iraqi Contractor who was awarded the bid. I had to find my own funding source in Kenya. Took a little longer.

Never arrested civilians or interogated them. I was not looking for any information. It was pretty obvious what was broken and rundown. Saddam did absolutely no maintenance on his cities. Everything was broken or about to break. I had expected to do a lot of repair from military actions. Not at all. Those building were, for the most part, destroyed. I was performing maintainance and repair on systems that were not maintained for decades. They were also poorly designed. Naturally, I worked with community groups and the like to get projects aimed at what civilians wanted most rather than what i thought they should want most.

I ate at restaurants and houses frequently. Most soldiers do not. I frequented public markets and shopped for fruits and vegtables. most soldiers do not. I built trust the same way i did in the peace corps. I answered questions from regular people and chatted with them. They asked the same questions you would expect. "why are you here?" "are you a spy?" "can you give me something?" Some people trusted us, and many did not.

We talked about politics, sports, culture. There was no difference between iraqi in baghdad and people in any other urban population except they spoke a strange language and have different customs. Much like i would expect from some random person from Chicago or New York City.

In terms of intel, what is there to know? I know that the news media does not tell anybody in the united states what is going on in iraq. All i see is soldiers driving around getting blown up or shot at. Most recently it is the iraqis getting blown up and or shot at. That is about as detailed as it gets.

There is always scuttlebut about what is going on. Sometimes it is true. However, it covers the entire range of possibilities so you can never know what is accurate and what is not. I would guess that any decent iraqi or "insurgent" intelligence specialist knows and will know a whole lot more than almost any soldier in iraq.

Supplies and projects and bases are fairly irrelevant in terms of intelligence. I would think that immediate information is more important. Is there a raid planned to find somebody particular in a particular area at a particular time? Other than that it is really quite boring for intelligence.

I mean all we are really doing is trying to find the bad guys and fix the broken municipal and other governmental systems. This is really no secret and one thing for sure is that Americans do not blend into the scenary. Nope, unless your job is to be a secret squirrel spy you really don't have any information that cannot be gotten from a trash dump or one of the many many many iraqi contractors and vendors that live and work on bases. I wish it were otherwise because it sounds kind of glamorous.

Then again, i am sort of odd by army standards because i was in the peace corps. So everyone thinks i am politically and socially liberal and most likely smoked a lot of weed.

The basic difference between service is both that you were mostly alone in the peace corps and in the army you are never never never ever alone. I was pulled off reserve status about three years ago to get ready for iraq and have not seen my home since.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Sunday, September 11, 2005 - 12:21 am: Edit Post

Thank you. You are absolutely right that we don't know alot about what is going on in Iraq and what you are writing, is just fascinating and incredibly important. Using money captured from Hussein, contracting with Iraqis and getting community input for projects makes alot of sense and I don't think that the use of this strategy has been widely reported in the States, at all. It sounds as if you were not engaged in any kind of combat activities, at all. Am I reading that wrong? Were you ever debriefed about the people you were meeting and working with, particularly when there were attacks? And, do you think you could be reassigned to Iraq in the Peace Corps, (theoretically) and be safe?

I can see from what you write that there are alot of ways to obtain information and that ordinary soldiers are not necessarily a source of intelligence. However, I still think that soldiers who join the Peace Corps could still be seen as a source of intelligence for terrorists. Soldiers whose job is to be "secret squirrel spies" or soldiers who are working in intelligence can still then join the Peace Corps. There is no restriction. So there is no way to tell which soldier was in intelligence and which one was in municipal reconstruction. Every PCV would be suspect. Or, knowing which soldier/pcv had been in intelligence gathering, would, in and of itself, be valuable information.

I've never been in the military, I grew up in a military household, basically during the Cold War. My concern about security does come from that experience. I, of course, knew nothing about military matters. The one thing I did know, inadvertingly, from one post where my Dad was stationed was that when soldiers had emotional breakdowns, they had to be transfered to hospitals with maximun security clearance. Later, the story broke that most of the mustard gas in the US was stored on that post. I never knew that; but knowing that soldiers had to go to maximun security hospitals was in, and of itself, an important bit of information. That is the kind of stuff I am talking about, in terms of security.

I hope you will keep posting here about your experiences in Iraq.
We all need to learn more. Certainly your twin experiences give you a remarkable perspective and credibility.

I don't understand when you say that you were pulled off reserve status about three years ago and have not seen your home since. That sounds like a terrible hardship and grossly unfair. I hope you get home soon.

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) ( on Monday, September 12, 2005 - 9:26 pm: Edit Post

I was never debriefed by anyone. The exception was of course, when we got attacked. we only really got attacked with any effect once. that was a roadside bomb that blew my third vehicle off the road and scattered some of my soldiers around. the debriefing was only to have us discuss what happened and vent any pent up rage or frustrations. There was not much to tell. I mean, we got blown up. It happened every day about 20-70 times a day. No more than a couple to maybe ten or so would get killed. This was all reported by cnn.

Most likely any pcv working in iraq with any topic that involved promotion of womens rights would be killed pretty quick. there was a rpcv from namibia that worked with women's rights for some ngo that got herself killed in iraq. she was killed merely because of the topic of her efforts. Really, there is just not that much mystery to what is happening in iraq. i think that most iraqis are more familiar with our activities than most americans. First, most americans probably don't care. Second, most news networks are more interested in blood stories than anything else so most of the activities don't get reported.

Geraldo got himself in trouble reporting his direction of travel and where he was during an invasion. that was during an invasion. right now there is an iraqi government and our work is to support reconstuction and development. I would guess there is a lot of secret squirrel stuff too, but i would guess there is a lot of secret squirrel stuff in many countries too.

if something is intended to be secret it is probable that somebody like me in civil affairs doesn't know about it. why should i? it is secret. nobody asked me or anyone on my team anything at all except, "how much will it cost, when will it be done and will it make a good picture?" sorry, it is just not in any way shape or form dramatic like a movie. I sure wish it was more fun.

it might be unfair that i have been removed from civilian life for so long, but then again there is very little "fair" anymore.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 12:52 am: Edit Post

Thank you again for taking time to write and describe what you know. You are the one who has been in Iraq and I defer to your opinion. The reason I kept asking questions is to learn more. I absolutely do not think that war is dramatic or fun or interesting or that there is anything romantic about "spying" or knowing secret information. I am sorry if anything in what I have posted suggests that. My father was a combat veteran who was emotionally damanged by serving honorably in a war which was probably necessary for the safety of this country. I will never forget what it did to him, nor did he.

When you describe civil affairs missions, it is almost like there is a policy to keep you all separate from the combat missions. Is this done deliberately? It would make sense to me that you all would know alot about what is going on in local communities and that you should be debriefed. Not to do so doesn't make alot of sense. I can't tell from what you say if this is enlighted policy which helps to keep you all safe or whether it is just plain stupidity on the part of "higher ups" who don't know what they are doing. This is also an impression that some in the media give.

One of the reasons I oppose having inactive reserve soldiers in the Peace Corps is because I think that soldiers, even in inactive status, would have information which would be vaulable to the enemy and such soldiers would be vulnerable to being captured once in a Peace Corps assignment. You are challenging my assumption based on your own experience in Iraq and I am learning.

It is not clear if you are still in Iraq or if not, how long ago you left. This is what I have learned from the media about Iraq: Things have gotten worse in terms of the insurgency in the last year. The tactics the terrorists use are pretty classic; attack transportatin grids; attack places of economic activity; attack government officials and attack civilians, at random. The goal is to create instability and force military, both American and Iraqi, to become aggressive and in some cases, oppressive, which alienates the populace and creates a vivious sprial into chaos. Some reports say that some terrorists are joining the Iraqi police and military to learn tactics and get information to use for the insurgency. The media is overwhelmingly supportive of US soldiers and gives the impression that Iraqis are brave, want to be free but are also angry at America because the situation has not gotten better.

Almost everyone who has been in the military and the peace corps and has posted at PCOL did peace corps first and then the military, as you have. But, the new policy would have people do military first and then peace corps. I am still not sure if you feel you could safely serve in Iraq as a Peace Corps Volunteer after having been a soldier there.

When do you get to go back to civilian life? I hope it is soon.
Thanks again for taking time to write about this. It is so important.

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) ( on Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - 3:01 pm: Edit Post

I left iraq about eight months ago. I am now learning Thai in California. I certainly cannot complain about that.

Basically, though, nope. There is no information a soldier has that would have any tactical value or otherwise to a terrorist. Any organized terrorist organization knows our tactics very well. The only value would be in killing or capturing an american that was in the military in and of itself.

When I served in Kenya, there were at least four people I knew that had been in the army or marines that were serving as volunteers.

The military is merely a large cumbersome bureaucracy (sp?) that uses guns and wears uniforms. You take a little more risk as other people have a tendancy to want to kill you. Such is the nature of things.

Everyone gets shot at and blown up in iraq. We get told that the likelyhood of these events happening is more or less depending on what the secret squirrels believe. They are correct almost half the time.

We lived on the same small little base as combat arms people and the usual support soldiers. The latter being cooks, mechanics, radio people, supply and what not. Everyone had there own mission and they were happy to do it.

Our Civil Affairs team drove around and did our thing just as everyone else did their thing. There was coordination in terms of getting the most out of a mission. So if the doctors wanted to do an impromptu clinic at a school, we would coordinate with the school principal. The Docs would cooridinate with their supplies and medical needs. The combat arms people would assign a small protection force for the school/clinic. The clinic would open and close and everyone would go back to whatever and wherever they needed to be.

There really is not much to it. I cannot fathom any reason a terrorist would grab a former soldier except for the fact that the person is a former soldier.

If peace corps went to iraq right now and i was sent as a volunteer, I would probably be killed in less than six weeks. I only pick that time frame because I figure all PCVs would be killed in that amount of time. Well, killed or held as hostage. The only advantage to grabbing me would be to play up my former army status; there is no information I have that would have any value and I am pretty sure the terrorists know that too.

It is important to note that the mission in iraq is definitely not an attack and conquer mission. It is all about aid and reconstruction and government support to Iraq. If you change the mission from mostly humanitarian to combat, and put a former combat or spy person in that country immediately after a ceasefire, that would seem a bit strange.

The military cannot send me back to kenya. It is for the volunteer's benefit that they do this. They don't want to give the appearance of using returned peace corps volunteers as spys.

good discussion.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Friday, September 16, 2005 - 9:53 am: Edit Post

I have been thinking about how to respond to this latest post. You say alot of important things and I realize how little I know and I am still thinking about what I would like to say. But, in the meantime, I continue to have questions. Are you still on active duty, Bob? If so, are you restricted on what you can post in a public internet forum? You said that the military can not send you back to Kenya. I thought the military could do whatever it damm well pleased. Is there a statutory restriction about sending RPCVs, on active military service, back to the country in which they served in the Peace Corps?

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) ( on Monday, September 19, 2005 - 10:17 pm: Edit Post

Yep, definitely on active duty. I arrived from iraq and found myself driving south to california to learn a foreign language about two weeks later. I have been here, monterey, for almost a year.

All military are restricted to what they can and cannot say. If I advocate politically, i cannot do it as a soldier. Nor can i attend political functions in uniform. Obviously, military personel cannot reveal classified information; wish i knew some. We have a lot of restrictions, but mostly we are not allowed to use illegal or illicit drugs, join hate groups or racial sepremist groups. We have very strict codes of conduct related to equal opportunity. We cannot drink and drive. (we get in a lot of trouble for that. the civilian penalty is just the warm up for what the military will do to us.)
We have to be financially responsible. If you bounce a check or fail to pay a bill you are in a world of hurt. the list goes on forever.

Statutory? Nope. Basically, way back when in the old days the Peace Corps said, "look, we got volunteers out in the middle of nowhere. They are alone. They get no help or assistance other than the bare minimum. We just do not need people thinking they are spies and killing them. You all need to make rules to protect our volunteers."

The CIA got it. Five years after peace corps, you can join; not before. Most other intel agencies followed suit. the army just put an all out ban on any former peace corps volunteer serving in "their" foreign country if they are in the army in select military occupational specialties (MOS). civil affairs and psychological operations are two that i have and that are on the list. my guess is that the army picked every job type that may, in the wildest sense, be construed as information gathering. I would also suppose that back in the viet nam era these jobs included more of an intelligence gathering function than they do now. I am told they did, but i don't really know.

Jobs are constantly revised. These jobs are no exceptions. However, the army has kept that rule and nobody seems to know why they have it or what it means. the only reason i know what it means is because i worked for peace corps headquarters after my volunteer service. after four years at headquarters, i became familiar with these intel rules and what brought them about.

the military is a bureaucracy. (i don't think i spell that right?) they only do what they are allowed to do and that is always in a rule or regulation which is all public information. bending rules is a risk that i would hesitate to take because you are accountable for the error and it will have repercussions. if not today, then in a month or year or five years.

so no, nothing i know in statute. i think it is just administrative law. i doubt many people who follow this rule have a clue as to why it was made or what it means.

the military is far from a bad place or a bad job. it just gets a little weird now and again due to the bureaucratic nature of the organization and the largely held public belief that it sort of free wheels around.

we do have the best equipped and most thoroughly trained army in the world. it has people that are unbelievably intelligent as well as people that are as dumb as a box of rocks. I think any successful corporation, business, ngo, religious organization or whatever can say pretty much the same thing. the only real difference is that the military gives you guns and we get killed (and kill) as part of our collective job. still, it really ain't all that bad. you just have to get used to the idea that if you are in the military you can pretty much forget about having a life that a civilian has. Also, you can pretty much forget about being accepted in civilian society. I did not realize that last bit until recently.

By Letty Baker (cpe-65-26-25-188.kc.res.rr.com - on Saturday, September 24, 2005 - 9:45 pm: Edit Post

I was a volunteer in Thailand at the beginning of the Vietnam War. There were a lot more military in the town where I lived than volunteers in the whole rest of the country. But the Thais wanted us both there so they were not wary of spies. But during that time, in Indonesia, the volunteers had to leave abruptly because the local Indonesians lost trust in the volunteers. As I remember the story, a guy wore his motorcycle helmet one day because he knew the PC director of the area was coming to visit. As it happened there was a huge industrial accident the same day. And the local people came to the conclusion that the volunteer knew there would be an "accident" and so, wore his helmet for once. My point is, that I believe the Peace Corp would have an IMPOSSIBLE time trying to be trusted if this option for military service is allowed to stand. The Peace Corp is meant to build positive relationships. A Civilian Affairs unit does a good thing but for military objectives. There is enough danger for a lone volunteer, just living in an underdeveloped country, without undermining the rock of trust that has supported the successes through the years of volunteer service.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Monday, September 26, 2005 - 12:05 am: Edit Post

I’ve missed being part of this discussion but we have been keeping the phone lines open to get news of family in Houston. All is well, now, and I hope that for everyone. So I return to this discussion with renewed respect for the military and how critically important they were to rescue efforts during the hurricanes. I could see an expanded humanitarian role for the military in the developing world, independent of combat activities. However I still think that ordinary soldiers would be at risk, if they were Peace Corps Volunteers, because even ordinary soldiers have information, which would be useful to the enemy, in this time of war.

I know, Bob, that you disagreed with that, so much so that you have posted your reasons on PCOL and given us a tremendous insight into the thinking and the life of an ordinary soldier who served in Iraq and who had been, first, a PCV in Kenya. But I think Letty was astute when she said that Civil Affairs unit does good things, but for military objectives.

You speak from a military culture which may seem pretty straightforward to you but is really foreign to the rest of us. I don't mean that you shouldn't be accepted in civilian society; but you are a soldier 24/7 and that makes all the difference.

You argue that ordinary soldiers/PCVs would not be at risk, not because they don't have important information, but because the enemy has that information, too. You showed us how important the internet was to "intelligence gathering" and how accessible to everyone in the world. You explained that Iraqis work on bases and that the American military presence is so pervasive, that just by observing soldiers terrorists would know everything you do. You make it all seem self evident. I certainly have no experience or knowledge to challenge that. However, I wonder if you have had special training or briefing which allows you to access and evaluate the intelligence capabilities of the enemy.

And than I feel as if this becomes a Catch 22; if you had such training or if you had access to classified information, you couldn't say so. And this ambiquity is the heart of the problem if soldiers could join the Peace Corps without a "break in the link of their service."

Just like Iraqis and others watch soldiers and draw conclusions; people all over the world have been observing PCVs for forty five years and making decisions to trust or not, based on all that evidence. In all that time, evaluating the military experience or military objectives of a PCV, fulfilling his or her military obligation with peace corps service, has not ever been part of the mix. There is no foundation or tradition to evaluate a peace corps with such membership.

It would not be like Animal House, "Seven years of college down the drain, I guess I 'll have to join the Peace Corps"...it would be forty five years down the drain and starting all over again.

How would peace corps volunteers know who had been the "squirrel spies?" let alone how would host country people know? How would anyone know who to trust? The safest thing would be to not to trust. The safest thing for host country people would be not to even associate with peace corps. The smartest thing for terrorists to do would be to capture a couple of soldiers/PCVs and check them out, find out what they know. And what if they got lucky?

I hope you will return, Bob, and write some more. Quite apart from the argument, you have alot to share and what you have to say is very important. But, I also know that when the discussion started on PCOL, we were all dealing with a "done deal." Now, that a resolution has been introduced in Congress to change this policy, the issue may be political and you may not be able to comment.

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) (pomproxy.monterey.army.mil - on Wednesday, September 28, 2005 - 10:41 pm: Edit Post

All soldiers in every army do things for their own military objectives. However, all armys for every country do things at the request of their political leaders. This serves to achieve political objectives. The Peace Corps also works for the political interest. Two distinct methods of political action implemented by people that are putting themselves at risk.

Whatever any persons personal beliefs are, they are serving the intent of the political leadership that put them there, regardless if they are a peace corps volunteer alone in the middle of nowhere or a soldier with eight other soldiers in a large city. The military is not merely sent into a country and given carte blanche to romp around and do as they please. (They certainly don't invade first and call the President once they secured some other Nations capital and let him know.) There is always a political goal. A peace corps volunteer has one heckofa lot more autonomy, but they really have no resources and are not liable to do too much too far out of line from what the politicians want them to accomplish. I mean, how much trouble can you get into with ten bags of concrete mix, two shovels, and a homemade wheelbarrow? (okay, I could get in a lot) As a soldier, you probably have a couple of humvees, lots of rifles and bullets, some grenades, some form of anti-tank weapon, and you are wearing body armor and you are the police. You can do a lot of political damage, (Not even to mention war crimes) if you are not given very specific parameters of what you can and cannot do and be fully warned of how long you will stay in jail if you mess it up.

I am not saying that a soldier converted to peace corps volunteer is not at risk. I believe every volunteer is at risk. I aggree that one of the best ways to keep a volunteer alive is by minimizing any perception that they are a spy. Lord knows people thought i was a spy in rural kenya. I could never figure out what they thought a spy could possibly learn in a very small hamlet in a very remote area.

"you are very poor. you have no electricy, running water, telephones, or clinics. You have one gas station that sometimes has gas. You sell both tomatos and onions in your fresh produce market. you have a school with no windows or doors. you fish for a living. some fish you eat fresh; some fish you dry and eat in a soup later. you don't care about the president because he doesn't care much about you. in fact, you really don't have an interst in politics because you fish. gotcha. now lets talk about where you get your fresh water...." It did not take me two years to figure that out.

i don't think there is any harm in your random soldier joining the peace corps. however, i don't think your random soldier should be given preference in receiving a peace corps invitation based on their marksmanship ability or any other soldier common task. if they are a soldier, let them soldier. if they want to join the peace corps, they should get in line like everybody else and take their chances.

i would wonder about the motivation of someone who is coming in the middle of their army enlistment to the peace corps. most people i talk to want to be either one or the other. not both and certainly not both "back to back". if you were really a very good army soldier why would you want to reduce your contracted term to join the peace corps? i can not name one person who would have cut their peace corps tour from two years to one year if they had the opportunity to serve the last year as a soldier.

No, i have not had any of the secret squirrel training on evaluation of the intelligence capacity of the enemy. Actually, one of the only ways civil affairs can be so successful is that they are specifically kept out of that area because it reduces our effectiveness.

People would stop shooting at us or just not shoot at us in baghdad when they knew who we were because they knew what we did for the community. Improvised Explosive devices were a different deal. We identified two out of three of those nasty things and that was pretty good.

We should probably not have used baghdad as an example of where to assign a soldier converted to peace corps volunteer. I would bet any amount that any peace corps volunteer assigned to baghdad in the next five years would be dead in less than a month. it just ain't the time for it.

anyway, i am currently learning thai in california and i do hope to return to my house in oregon one day soon. i have no idea why i am learning thai, but that is the kind of language you really can't complain about. so it looks like the peace corps taught me swahili and luo; the army taught me thai. why doesn't anybody teach me something i can use back home like spanish? do you have any idea how many swahili, luo, and/or thai speakers there are in eastern orgeon? one, thats how many. ;)

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Friday, September 30, 2005 - 8:38 am: Edit Post

Bob, I meant to ask a few postings back about your other MOS or military job description. You said it was "psycological operations" and on the basis of that the military would not send you back to a country in which you served as a peace corps volunteer. What skills were you taught to qualify for a MOS of "psycological operations" and what kinds of things could the military order you to do?

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) (pomproxy.monterey.army.mil - on Saturday, October 01, 2005 - 5:47 pm: Edit Post

I can carry around a very loud speaker and tell people to get away from wherever they are because two conflicting armies are about to greet each other and hanging around would be a bad idea. I can tell people all kinds of things. Basically, you tote around the heaviest loudspeaker modern science can devise and put out information. "Clean water that direction. Medical supplies, that direction. If you know where landmines are, let anyone in a pickle suit know so we can have them removed. Or, landmines have been found in that direction so make sure you stay out and keep your kids out."

Additionally, lets say you are in a combat situation, you can say, "surrender or send out your noncombatants before we have to come in and kill you.". Also, during the Desert Storm War the news published all kinds of stories about leaflets dropped from planes telling iraqi soldiers how best to surrender and where to go. Pschological operations did that, too.

In a nutshell, psychological operations is a communications and marketing tool for peacekeeping, humanitarian, and war situations. It sounds more like some type of emotional counselor for soldiers or something to that effect.

I think that psychological operations developed mostly in the vietnam war and there job was diffent than it currently is. I think they have been more on deceptions and intelligence gathering than currently. I suppose if i put my mind to it, I could put a speaker on top of my humvee and drive around in the dirt dragging some chains and playing a recording of moving tanks. This might deceive the enemy into attacking my position. The only problem with that is what would i do if it worked?

I know that one of our mandates is that we must never, ever, ever tell a lie. So if we tell people there is a field with landmines, there has to be landmines. If we say water and other aid in a certain location, it has to be there.

The only time we ever told a lie was at a small little camp in some part of the california desert. It seems that the "chow hall", was only open for an hour for breakfast and there were a bunch of captains there learning how to be majors. So we made a sign that changed the chow hall hours so we would not have to wait in line for twenty minutes. Basically, the cafeteria opened at 7:00 and we made a sign that said, "7:30". I thought it was pretty funny. I got in trouble for it, of course, but our little training was over and we were already in the middle of a burning desert so what could people possibly do to us more than was already going on?

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Sunday, October 02, 2005 - 12:07 pm: Edit Post

You are funny, but far too modest. When I think of psychological operations, I do not think of emotional counseling for soldiers, I think of psychological warfare. I do not understand if your MOS is mainly giving out important information to noncombatants, why in the world would the military says this MOS prevents you from being reassigned to Kenya? If the goal of psychological operations is giving out accurate information in crisises, I would think knowing the native language would be critical. Why wouldn't the army want to use you, your MOS and your language skills in Kenya?
What you are describing is basically refugee control and my dad did that as a military policeman and a civil affairs officer. I think there is more to psychological operations that just giving out information. Can you tell us more?

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Sunday, October 16, 2005 - 3:40 pm: Edit Post

I miss Bob's contributions to this discussion of soldiers in the peace corps. I have learned alot, but I still believe that the obligations of soldiers, even if on "inactive status," are so different as to make their presence in the peace corps wrong.
I also think, still, that soldiers could be at risk if they are captured, because of the information they have. Although, I am absolutely convenienced that Bob Paul would tell the enemy ONLY exactly what he wanted them to know!
I support Representative Klein's bill removing this peace corps option from the alternatives available to the military Ready Reserve. Two Representatives in the Colorado Congressional delegation are cosponsoring the Klein bill. One is Mark Udall, Democratic, whose mother was a Peace Corps Volunteer and whose Uncle was a cabinet member in the Kennedy Administration. The other is Tom Tancredo, Republican, who is considered, by many, to be a radical conservative. The fact that these two, so opposite on so many issues, would be together on removing the peace corps option from the Ready Reserve, is powerful.

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) (pomproxy.monterey.army.mil - on Monday, October 17, 2005 - 9:55 pm: Edit Post

Psychological operations is very simple. Basically you make an effort to change somebodys behavior (often an enemy) without necessarily changing their beliefs. Simple and intuitive stuff for all intents and purposes, but in this particular career people have very structured jobs. so psychological operations is actually a job in and of itself. It is just like marketing. Cops and civil affairs people will tend to migrate toward arresting people and trying to "catch them" for the cops and direct infrastructure or administrative support and education for civil affairs.

pyschological operations finds themselves with the stuff that sorta lands in the junk drawer. "watch out for those Land mines the enemy put there", or "temporary water, food, and healthcare centers two blocks thataway" or "you better start thinking about surrender because in twelve minutes there is going to be about five thousand bombs falling on your position, your call, but i would avoid getting blown up it i were you". stuff like that.

most people start thinking "manchurian candidate". not even close. no real educational requirement for this job. it is very fun considering the alternative jobs.

i think anybody is at risk if captured. if they start grabbing people chances are they don't have good things to consider to do to this person. if they are army, sure they will probably get dead. the peace corps would hold little sanctuary in many places that have a very specific anti-western program. after all, the peace corps is one form of diplomacy. it the people that do the grabbing do not like anything your country stands for, chances are you are going to have a very painful end. regardless of whether you are wearing and official army uniform or a tie died t-shirt and birkenstocks.

i am not sure what is meant by "inactive status". this seems a bit not exactly accurate. from what i know about the army, a very little actually considering i am in the reserves, you have several different categories. first, you can be an active duty soldier. for the reserves, this translates to the "ready reserves". these are the folks that either attend the military on a day to day basis like the regular army or do the weekend type military commitment with definitely more than two weeks a year annual training.

This is the most of your time. Then in the reserves you go to the "IRR". this means "individual ready reserve". basically, when you join the reserves you join for six years in the ready reserves and two more in the "irr". in the irr you don't do anything, but you can still be called up as the need arises and the military has pretty much used up all the rest of the people they have. Once those final two theoretical years go by you are out of the military.

nobody has every said anthing to me about an "inactive status". it sorta sounds like the individual ready reserve. If you are in the IRR, you are basically out of the army because you have not renewed your contract and obviously wish to disappear from the army personnel radar.

so if you are on the IRR, and a war breaks out, and you get a telegram forwarded to you from your last known (by the military) address, you can sure bet you just won an all expenses paid trip someplace you get to carry a gun and a couple of grenades. most people that receive those telegrams throw them away and start shoveling down cheesecake as fast as they can. (you can always eat yourself out of the army).

for my perspective, if you want to be in the military join the military and compete for the job you want to do and try to achieve the highest rank your ability and training will take you. if you want to join the peace corps, make out an application and talk to a recruiter and get in the very long and competive line. i really don't see how one path can give you an easier time with the harder peace corps path.

as far as being more risk, i really don't see it. you don't know that much of anything anyway so you really don't have a "big secret". as far as being more readily able to compromise the intergrity of the peace corps, you wouldn't as long as you did not come from a secret squirrel job and you were truthful the whole way.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - 10:19 am: Edit Post

Good to hear from you, Bob. I feel so d. dumb. I thought that IRR meant Inactive Ready Reserve. Thank you for the correction. I understand, now, that it means Individual Ready Reserve. My misunderstanding comes from a very informal conversation with a Congressional Aide, who, I understood to say, that most IRRs had been called to active duty, again, because of Iraq. Their office was being bombarded by IRRs who were being recalled to active duty status. So, am I correct, if an individual, in the eight year military plan, served his/her last two years in the peace corps, they could still be recalled to active duty right out of their peace corps assignement? Squirrel or no squirrel.

By Colin Gallagher (adsl-64-173-179-90.dsl.mtry01.pacbell.net - on Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - 6:10 am: Edit Post

Bob, I see from your above IP address as well as from one of your above posts that you are from Monterey. Good to be in the general vicinity of someone who knows what he is talking about! (I'm currently a Planner for the City of Monterey and a Planning Commissioner for Marina, but am not representing the above organizations in any way; rather, I'm writing this post in my capacity of "Critical Colin, the Ever-Analyzing RPCV.")

As an aside, have you been using your psy-ops skills on Joanne Roll? (just kidding)

Seriously: Here is the issue in a nutshell. Under current NCS program law, as enacted by Congress, there is now no legal distinction between military service and Peace Corps service, WITH RESPECT TO SATISFACTION OF (a portion) OF MILITARY SERVICE OBLIGATION. Thus, with Peace Corps as a service option in the NCS program, the perception of who is a Peace Corps Volunteer and who is (or might be) defense personnel - acting under national security law and obligation - is now blurred.

The U.S. Code itself contains the Congressional declaration of purpose for Peace Corps, which reads in part, "The Congress of the United States declares that it is the policy of the United States and the purpose of this chapter to promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps(..)" It is incredibly hard to believe that using Peace Corps as a military service incentive is consistent with the Congressional declaration of purpose for the Peace Corps.


Under the NCS program, the inactive (or IRR) military person must still apply and get accepted by Peace Corps (they do not have priority over anyone else - PC still needs to evaluate their skill-set, medical conditions, etc., and decide whether or not to accept the individual), but this creates potential for shortening the timeframe between military training and Peace Corps service, particularly when the applicant is in a military field that provides training through the duration of active-duty military service. (This is because the NCS program provides a means for practically anyone who has served in the military for three years and three months, to complete their service obligation in Peace Corps.) As well, with Peace Corps service being put forth as satisfaction of military service, it has significant potential to create a negative perception of Peace Corps by foreign governments and host country nationals alike. In fact, in late December of 2002, just after the NCS / Peace Corps arrangement cleared Congress, the Russian government terminated arrangements with Peace Corps, and the Director of the Russian Federal Security Service alleged that Peace Corps Volunteers had been "collecting information about social, political and economic situation in the Russian regions." forcing many Volunteers to leave Russia and barring future Peace Corps Volunteers from entering. Now, you might say, who in the United States or anywhere else in the world, for that matter, really cares about what the Russian Federal Security Service Director says about Peace Corps Volunteers? Granted. But, one must wonder, if the NCS program was approved in December 2002 and Peace Corps agreements with Russia were terminated that same month, might not similar problems arise in other countries whose governments and people have concerns regarding American militarism in the world at large? Might not other Volunteers end up either being told by PC Washington to leave a country for security reasons, or simply have to exit upon experiencing visa nonrenewal, because of similar objections?

See further details in my full post at:


By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) (pomproxy.monterey.army.mil - on Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - 8:41 pm: Edit Post

You know, me and acronyms in the army don't get along too well. You are probably right, inactive ready reserve. sure, no real difference though. it is basically a roster you are on that only has significance if you react to a call up.

Colin, yep, it has been a couple years and some months since I left my desk as the senior planner in wasco county, oregon to deploy to iraq and then redeploy to monterey. I still have a bunch of stuff in my desk drawer that contract person after contract person passes by.

your point is well taken. a point of perception. sure, i can go with that. why risk the integrity of the peace corps with an automatic label they have to defend? i well know there are plenty of other political machinations that the peace corps staff fights to keep the mission intact.

as for me, i will learn this language and, hopefully, return to urban planning without extended interuptions. i will just continue to burrow myself into my textbooks on the top of this cold, cold, hill that has incessant fog until i can go home. ;)

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - 10:43 pm: Edit Post

My good friend, Colin Gallagher, has suggested that perhaps, Bob, you are practicing your psy/ops skills on me. The thought has occurred to me, too. Let me toss out a “Let’s pretend” scenario. Just suppose the Pentagon decided it really needed to use that Peace Corps option to increase recruiting rates and that maybe it might even want to try placing a “squirrel” or two in the Peace Corps to see if that would yield any useful information.
The Pentagon has to have contingency plans for everything. So perhaps, in the basement some pys/ops guys were ordered to come up with a contingency plan to infiltrate the Peace Corps, or at least train soldiers on how to get by the gatekeepers at Peace Corps Selection.

Suppose they called it, oh, I don’t know, Operation Kumbaya. Suppose they came up with a couple of different strategies to try out. One was the George Patton “Put down that guitar, you candy ass peacenik, and get on board “Team America.” (See: Mike Osborne’s postings) But, they also found a soldier who has also been in the Peace Corps, who had even served as a Selection Officer for four years in the Peace Corps/WASH HDQS (the military types really warm up to “Headquarters” designation) who was real smart (Monterey School of Language) and who had a MOS of psy/ops and ordered him to come up with a training guide to assist soldiers who wanted to use the IRR option of Peace Corps. Perhaps they even suggested he might want to do a test run on some RPCV types.

What is known about the average Peace Corps volunteer? Anti-military or more accurately, anti-war; anti-establishment; appreciative of self-deprecating humor; empathetic; humanitarian values; and strongly identified with PC/RPCV community. Some studies might even suggest that the average Peace Corps Volunteer or RPCV, particularly the female, is naïve.

What would such an approach look like? Well, the soldier would emphasize all the ways in which being a soldier and being a peace corps volunteer were alike; the soldier would diminish or dismiss all the ways in which being a soldier and being a peace corps volunteer were different. The soldier would disassociate himself/herself from any combat activities. The soldier would strongly identify with his/her “buddies.” The soldier would always show himself/herself in a “helping capacity.” The soldier would be self-deprecating in humor and portray himself/herself as feeling lonely and maybe not really belonging in the military or the civilian world; a sympathetic character and certainly one with which RPCVs could identify.

Sometimes in marketing operations, a test run is done to see how people in a targeted population react. Let me give an example. Language fluency in a language the Peace Corps needs is one surefire way to be accepted for service. However, how could an average soldier from Middle America, for example, explain being fluent in, say, Thai?
Well, he/she could explain that the military sent them to Monterey to learn that language and they really didn’t know why, just, something the military does.

It would be important to know if the average Peace Corps staff/volunteer/RPCV would know that the Military Language School at Monterey is the premier language school in the world. The military trains specialists there in specific languages in order for them to be able to translate in highly sensitive political situations; to gather and analyze intelligence; to interrogate prisoners; to act as liaisons with foreign military, to infiltrate and act in highly specialized and many time secret occupations within the military. “Run it up on the flagpole and see if anyone salutes,” so to speak.”

Of course, this is all just pure speculation on my part, Bob. I am torn about posting this but I have enjoyed reading everything you have written. I feel as if I have learned a lot from you and I think this was a good discussion, in many ways. However, my intent has always been to advocate for the independence of the Peace Corps and to work to get the law allowing IRRs to complete military obligations in the Peace Corps changed. All that you have said just reinforces my resolve.

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) (pomproxy.monterey.army.mil - on Wednesday, October 19, 2005 - 9:10 pm: Edit Post

Could be, but then again probably not. No reason not to post that i can see...

If the military would want to infilitrate the peace corps they would have to have a specific goal in mind. I can think of three goals off the top of my head. One, destroy the credibility of the peace corps overseas. Two, gather intelligence information. Three, classify peace corps as military service so when you run for political office you can state that it was, in fact, military service and get those votes.

If you went for the former you would put as many people into the system as you could. Ideally, this would span at least one change of political party leadership and must include written acceptance of the program by Peace Corps headquarters. Then you could expose it and destroy the credibility of the peace corps. Boom, out go the lights. Beats me as to why. Maybe a high ranking political person was not extended an invitation to serve and carries a grudge. I could only hope it was somebody i denied an application to.

If you wanted information, which is much more likely, you would not want to try the volunteer route. At least, I would not for several reasons:

First, you have no idea how long the application process will take, if you will get an invitation, or, where you will go. You could wind up teaching english in eastern europe or fiji. Regardless, it will be a singular placement. you would have to dump one heckofalot of people into the system and that is a lot of fingerprints to explain when the report is run at peace corps headquarters. (it also involves the FBI and i am sure that this expanding bubble gets a little too complex to manage)

Second, if you do go someplace of intelligence value, how much can you learn in how long a time? Not much for the time commitment required and the people you would need to start at the acceptable "go" point.

If I wanted intelligence information this is exactly what i would do. i would not apply at all. i would have one of the very very many and very very influential schedule C (political appointees) put me on the roster at the staging event where all the volunteers go immediately before departure. This would be relative easy and there is always a political person appointed to any agency willing to cut a deal that will get them a better post. (the application stays in washington, the only thing at this event is an independant questionaire used by the peace corps director and staff in-country it details your experiences, languages, like thai and anything else pertinent to serve as an introduction to the staff) This would eliminate any guesswork as to where i was going. the only chance circumstance left would be exactly where in the country i would go. a risk, but might be acceptable considering the job would be specific. I mean, beekeeping is beekeeping, teaching enlish is teaching english and the like.

Better yet, i would get hired on as an area peace corps director in a specific field i was interested in and visit and talk with each and every volunteer in the field. I would talk to their counterparts and see their projects, talk to their friends at parties, etcetera. I would get much more information and would not "technically" be a volunteer. (I really don't know if Peace corps staff is forbidden from being a spy type. I guess they should, but that would be much harder to know from a volunteers perspective.) My communication lines would be clear and obvious and would never excite much concern. (a volunteer with a satellite radio setup who is there to do fisheries would be a bit noticeable.) Besides, the larger and more politically sensitive countries tend to have politically appointed directors, they could easily hire me if they were specifically told to do so by the right person.

Also, most army people are not very good at being alone and independant. this is somebody with a higher rank and a lot of responsibility, read as "expensive". Lower ranks need supervision and need to be able to be "debriefed" regularly. Intelligence information is very very suceptible (sp?) to time.

I would definitely put somebody in a staff position if i wanted to gather intelligence information quickly and efficiently.

I am sure there are probably better ways to do this, I just have not thought them all through. My rule of thumb is to try to create a scenario, in five minutes or less, that would serve some form of goal. Once I have the goal i can figure out the steps to do this. I actually think it might work and once i hit the send button on this thing i am going to start running through conversations i had with my area peace corps directors to see if one of them may have been doing just that.

Just a quick caveat, I would not do this myself. I enjoyed my peace corps service, made friends that have lasted well over one decade and almost two decades. Your point is well taken, you cannot be too careful nowadays. so i just say what i like and wait so see if somebody comes after me for something.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Thursday, October 20, 2005 - 1:58 pm: Edit Post

Sounds like a plan. How could Peace Corps protect or defend itself from infilteration from the military? Theoretically, of course.

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) (pomproxy.monterey.army.mil - on Thursday, October 20, 2005 - 3:04 pm: Edit Post

Not gonna happen.

We are all of one country and all on the same basic team, although the activities differ. Defending yourself from a friend puts you in the position of making your friend your enemy.

Both the military and the peace corps serve political interests. They may be separate entities, but they are separate only in terms of being part of one diplomatic effort.

As an rpcv, i am greeted with a bit of scorn in the military. however, when civil affairs missions come into play, it is quickly recognized that i have developed considerable skill from the peace corps experience. I still get the scorn, but i do receive some degree of respect for accomplishing things that were not expected to get accomplished. (and certainly not by me)

I suppose i just don't see the military and the peace corps as two separate sides as much as i see it as two separate methods in a diplomatic environment. Many believe the country would be no worse off if either institution was abolished. I believe there is a definite place for both, and if used correctly, both can do considerable good for a considerable number of people regardless of what country they claim nationality to.

As usual, the best route is to ensure the interests of the peace corps are clear, public, and acknowledged. Keep everything in the open and promote discussion of items that impact the mission of the peace corps, (the real corps)

("the real corps" comment doesn't win me much in the way of friends from my marine corps friends. So i keep saying it.)

By Stevin J. Strickland (cache-ntc-aa03.proxy.aol.com - on Thursday, October 20, 2005 - 7:35 pm: Edit Post


My two cents.

When I retired from the USAF I followed a dream of peace. I had been designing and leading the teaching of Human Rights within a US sponsored international military academy, but after 9-11 it dawned on me maybe human rights education wasn't working. I applied for, and was accepted into the Peace Corps. I was pretty much ridiculed out of my service. Yes, I got some,"He's doing a great thing" comments from true friends, but I was more or less blacklisted by others. I didn't care. I followed my heart.

Following my heart was the best thing I've ever done in my life. The PC was the greatest experience I have ever had. I still live in awe of the people, events, and experiences I lived through in Uzbekistan from 2002-2004. I am daily in contact with my students, helping them from here in the USA to come here to study, recommending them to organizations there, and just being an American who cares to email or send English magazines to them when I can.

It was an odd and surreal experience for me to be a retired military member in the Peace Corps. I retired to 'wage peace' and my government almost immediately declared war on a country neighboring my PC service country. I was more or less accepted by other PCVs, but my 'past life' as a military member haunted many relationships. I caught living hell from my politically astute students over issues like Abu Dhabi. I was responsible for this atrocity to many of them. Oddly, being a retired military member I could speak from my prior military experience--human rights training--and they could 'channel check' my reactions to see if I was lying to them about my feelings and who I was. I wasn't. I hate war.

While I do not agree at all with the military completion of service in the Peace Corps issue, I am scared one group of really sincerely motivated people who can really speak to the issue of peace, veterans, will eventually be shoehorned out of the Peace Corps due to shortsightedness and fear among others who have not experienced the contrasts between war and peace like veterans have.

I am also ethically bothered by private defense contractors being allowed to actively recruit current PCVs who then quit the PC to accept highly lucrative jobs using PC skills. In a similar vein it causes me more than a little cognitive dissonance when I see the RPCV magazine WorldView running full page FBI recruitment advertisements. Granted, there may be great RPCVs translating in military prisons and great RPCV FBI agents, but where do we draw the real line?

One thing is sure, the sparse press this issue has received belies its importance. The Peace Corps should be receiving far more attention, support, and funding than it currently is.

Personally, I think the issue boils down to a personal integrity issue with each PCV and the PC itself. PC recruiters need to have adequate resources to ensure their quality checks are made before any volunteer joins.

Real issues to me as a recent RPCV are:

Safety and security--almost every PCV I've ever spoken to has been approached by some shady official from their host country asking for assistance with this or that. Many, including myself, have been shaken down without reason, either in their own homes or on the streets.

US Embassy Policy--During terrorist events in the countries PCVs are assigned to should US Embassy's be allowed to lock down their compounds and not let PCV's inside?

Drug and alcohol abuse--Where are the resources to support PCMO's with strong alcohol, drug, and tobacco deglamorization programs? Hard drug use was prevalent in my area of assignment and PCV awareness programs were limited. It was a problem.

The Peace Corps continues to be the greatest thing going for the American people in terms of face-to-face intercultural bridgebuilding. Peace will always be a stronger tool than war politically. It is a shame that we don't dedicate as many resources to working on these vital Peace Corps issues as we do fighting for democracy.

I have the deepest respect for everyone participating in this forum.

Salomat boling, hayir, paka, much love,

RPCV Uzbekistan, 2002-2004
Tashkent Secondary Education

By Colin Gallagher (adsl-64-173-178-42.dsl.mtry01.pacbell.net - on Thursday, October 20, 2005 - 11:45 pm: Edit Post


To you and to all my urban planning brethren who daily deal with what is arguably top amongst the strangest manifestations of human concepts -- that is to say, the implementation of the notion of "Development" -- I wish you the best. Great discussion on this issue.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Saturday, October 29, 2005 - 1:20 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps is a small, unique and vulnerable agency within the
Executive Branch. Its independence is a function, only, of the good will of whatever administration is in power. Its only permanent consitutency is the RPCV community and we are together on only a few critical elements; chief is the absolute conviction that peace corps can not be involved in intelligence gathering and the notion that we must keep faith with those who are currently serving; those who have served, those who may in the future and everyone in the world who has risked befriending and working with us. Based on the discussions here from all of you I am encouraged.

However, the Libby indictments illustrate how dangerous bureacratic entanglement can be. One possible explanation of the situation is that the Department of Defense was fighting with the State Department and CIA over Iraq. The White House championed the DOD and out of that somehow came the decision to discredit the CIA sources. It is rumored that many CIA agents are concerned about their ability to function covertly because Libby's alleged actions make it extremely difficult to assure overseas foreign operatives of secrecy or to recruit new agents. Trust is trust and once it is broken, you can not put it back together again - The Humpty Dumpty Principle.
Ironically, trust is one of the issues being discussed here. Now what would happen, if the DOD had peace corps volunteers/soldiers in this mad mix?

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) ( on Saturday, October 29, 2005 - 3:19 pm: Edit Post

What would happen if by the simple fact that a person had served in the military they were no longer eligible for peace corps service?

Intelligence gathering services are verboten. That is easy. But what about somebody who was a cook? Truck driver? medic? dental assistant? water purification specialist? records clerk? supply sergeant? mechanic? heavy equipment operator? The list goes on and on.

The Peace Corps is a small organization. But it is hardly weak and vulnerable. If it was, it would have gone away. Americans in general don't know a lot about the Peace Corps, but they like the idea of it.

Most people on the street would describe the Peace Corps as an organization that helps developing countries and provides young, energetic individuals to do very tough jobs in very tough places. They would probably not know how many countries this include, but they would probably not realize the vast number of places we have served. They probably would not know that many volunteers are, in fact, older. There would be a lot of information about the peace corps that most people simply do not realize merely because nobody talks to them extensively.

The best source of information are RPCVs doing the third goal.

What i get concerned about is an organization that would ban a class of it's citizens from serving their country merely because they were in the military in any capacity.

There is also a rule about prostelitizing (sp?). Meaning you cannot go serve and try to convert the local population to whatever flavor religion you happen to be associated with. If you can eliminate all former military personel because you think they are spies, then you can certainly eliminate anyone affiliated with a religious institution because they may be joining merely to convert the local populace.

The example above is absurd, of course, but predjudice and bias is not. Diversity is a goal worthy to embrace sincerely and not merely to pay lip service.

The IRR means you have finished your contract and are on a list of people that may be called up if something really really big occurs. This is a one-in-a-million situation. Like say, we go to war with a couple of countrys in the middle east at the same time. (what are the odds of that!!)

As a placement officer working for the Peace Corps in Washington, I sent several people over who were on the IRR list. All it took was a memo from their commander acknowledging the fact that the individual was going someplace and would not be available. No big deal.

To me, a big deal is sending elite soldiers of the 82nd Airborne to assist in security operations in the southern united states. This job always goes to the national guard who are under the direction of their respective governors. I don't know if this is the first time this has happened, but if it is, it is an interesting precedent. Does this mean elite soldiers in the regular army can be sent to a major city to combat crime, drugs, freedom of speach or whatever is deemed significant?

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Saturday, October 29, 2005 - 5:13 pm: Edit Post

Hey Bob, I don't understand what you are talking about.

You were a placement officer working for the Peace Corps in Washington during a time of peace not war. IRRs were not needed. As a matter of fact, after the Gulf War, the military did a RIF (reduction in force) instituted by then Secretary of Defense Cheney and which eliminated about a million personnel from the military. Nobody was calling up IRRs during the ninties. Men and women who wanted to stay in the military were being riffed or mustered out. There was a huge savings by this reduction in military personnel. Remember the peace dividend? Isn't that about the time you were a Peace Corps selection officer?

This is wartime, now. The Army and the National Guard can NOT meet their recruiting goals. They need MORE not less bodies. IRRs are being reactivated all over the place, at least that is what one Congressional aide told me. This legislation did something new and different; it made a "seamless" service between military and peace corps service. It means men and women still in a contract period of military obligation can be eligible for the peace corps to fulfill that military obligation. The legislation blurs the line between peace corps and military. Military veterans are not a class of people prevented from joining the peace corps. But IRR, (People still considered Individual Ready Reservists) can be activited, quickly, pulled from a peace corps post and put into uniform. That is the problem. As you well know, that is the discussion.

I happen to share your concern about military being deplored in the US. But that has nothing to do with the discussion, here.

I feel like I am battling an army of straw men.

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) ( on Saturday, October 29, 2005 - 7:44 pm: Edit Post

No straw men, just a complex system with no simple answers. The military does not meet their recruitment goals. But you have to consider for what jobs. The military recruits to specific jobs. You do not join and get selected for job later on down the road. You do all your evaluation and a contract is prepared for a specific job for a specific time period including a period of IRR. Many jobs are difficult to recruit for and many are not. The military is not merely recruiting bodies, but bodies for specific jobs.

The military cannot just make you do another job without your consent. They frequently make you do horribly boring and timeconuming jobs within the job classification you have, but you are not pulled out of being a cook to being retrained and reclassified into an underwater welding specialist unless you consent, in writing.

I aggree that if you enter the peace corps under IRR you should not be able to be reactived. In the peacetime, which is irrelevant to the IRR process as a whole, the military had to waive their ability, in writing, to pull a volunteer and reactivate them. They basicially attached a rider to the contract with the soldier placing them on IRR once they completed Peace Corps Service. This means the peace corps could not serve as a safe haven to hide and allow the IRR to expire while they were on volunteer status.

In time of war the likelyhood of getting called out of IRR is very high. However, it happens in peacetime too. Not every member of the military is hired to be a combat person or spy. If the army starts running out of whatever skill set they are looking for, the institute a "stop-loss".

Stop-loss prevents every soldier in the specific job classification under "stop-loss" from reclassifying to a new job or retiring or leaving the army even if their contract has expired. (this is how i wound up here. my contract was over and i was going on irr, but with stop-loss i never really made it to that status.)

As far as the peacetime benefit. You are a bit wrong on that one. Peace built a strong economy for a while and the military could not meet their recruitment goals either. Why join the army to learn how to drive a truck or learn a computer tech trade when you could get trained on the civilian side quickly and enter a career all the faster and make a lot of money?

The military has no problem getting combat troops, especially in times of war because many join for just that reason. However, try getting someone to join today to learn how to drive a truck is not so easy when they know they will be driving in baghdad and getting shot at real soon. Many join the military to get a free education in a trade and then go into the civilian world without a huge education debt.

The issue had always seemed to me that allowing military to enter the peace corps as priority applicants as part of their military contract was an issue. The issue would further complicate itself by blurring the distinction between the military and the peace corps. This is a significant issue for me.

However, if the soldier is in irr and meets the skill, health, and personality criteria for the peace corps without being from specific jobs that are prohibited, then what is the issue? They could do this prior to the legislation.

If the military can pull these soldiers when needed from the IRR, then there is an issue with the Peace Corps being able to complete their mission as volunteers are placed specfically to be one person in one job. The military has people as part of larger teams so they can absorb the absence of one indidual. Not so with the peace corps.

Actually, being called an "individual" is pretty much an insult in the military. You are part of a team and function with a team that is always with you. The peace corps has you as part of a team too, except that you are very much isolated from your other team members. The military teaches you to rely and contribute to the success of your mission with your team. You place your trust in the team and you sacrifice for the benefit of the team. (not jump on a grenade, but take somebodys assigned job on a saturday if they have to take their kid to a ball game or something like that) The peace corps entrusts you to go out in the middle of noplace and operate with almost no supervision while contributing to the peace corps goals.

The two organization operate very differently with very different bureacratic lifestyles.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Sunday, October 30, 2005 - 12:43 am: Edit Post

Okay, it is a very complex system; it is a military system and trying to make is work with the peace corps is crazy making. What I get from all of this is inconsistency after inconsistency. Reservists on IRR have always been able to join the peace corps and so the legislation is reduntant? That does not make any sense.

The military is bound by contracts except when it doesn't want to be and so even if soldiers' contracts have expired, they can't leave because of stop loss. So the army can't make you a truck driver if you signed up to be a cook, but it can keep you on duty indefintely and you have no recourse. But this system would work just fine with soldiers in the peace corps?

It seems to me that the military has problems enough of its own and that Peace Corps should be more insulated, not less, from the Department of Defense. I think the legislation should be amended not only to remove the military option but to specifically prohibit those in IRR status from joining the Peace Corps.

I do think your analysis of how military personnel could complicate the ability of the Peace Corps to fulfil its mission is legitimate. And this is yet another major reason why the two should be separate.

I also think you are in a tough position. You are stop loss because you have an critical MOS, but you have said over and over again that you are just a ordinary soldier. Instead of letting you go home, the military is sending you to the premier language school in the world to leave Thai and then it is going to let you just go home? That doesn't make any sense.

There is no doubt that you have served your country well in many capacities, far more than most. I sense divided loyalities
as you try to reconcile military service with peace corps service.
Or maybe, you are just trying to make us understand how the military operates. I think you have done that really well.

That is why I believe, more than, ever that the peace corps option for military service is bad, bad policy.

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) ( on Sunday, October 30, 2005 - 4:57 am: Edit Post

I really don't know why the legislation was proposed to begin with. For me, i would prefer that you had one job and one job only specifically if it involves both military and peace corps. It just seems unsettling.

If you are leaving the military and are put on IRR, then you should not be able to be called up to return to the rank and file. At least, until your peace corps service was completed.

Actually, I gave up trying to figure out how the military worked a long while ago because i was getting nowhere because there was always a bend in the road.

The peace corps and the military should remain completely divided and separate. It just makes intuitive sense. This, unfortunately, involves people who will all have their own unique situations so dividing the organizations may not necessarily mean dividing the people. Very strange indeed.

I have never understood the concept of completing military IRR service in the peace corps. There simply is no military IRR service.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Sunday, October 30, 2005 - 12:55 pm: Edit Post

We are absolutely on the same page. Keep them separate.
What happens when you complete your assignment at Monterery? Can you go home?

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) ( on Monday, October 31, 2005 - 3:11 pm: Edit Post

At this point in time I don't have a home. I pay a mortgage on one in oregon and my employer has been holding my job, but i really don't remember much more about the place. Friends move on, family moves on, time moves on. Those memories fade awful quickly.

I guess I will volunteer to go back to iraq. It is not that I want to go back there, but I have no idea what to do next and there is always room on that bus. Besides, in the military you make friends real quick because you have no other life.

Looking back over what I just wrote, it looks kinda pathetic. Maybe I'll just take a vacation to thailand and see if this school merits it's reputation.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Tuesday, November 01, 2005 - 9:32 am: Edit Post

I wish that the premier language school in the world was run by the Peace Corps. I wish that men and women with your talent and experience were part of an elite cadre developing ways to make the world safer without using war as a strategy. This is what I don't understand, Bob, how come this government doesn't work that way?

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) (pomproxy.monterey.army.mil - on Thursday, November 03, 2005 - 10:03 pm: Edit Post

The military language school seems to be the presdidio. the government-(noncombatant)civilian language school is run by the foreign service institute. the latter is usually contracted by peace corps to run their programs overseas. i don't know which one is better and i have been through both. (one of my teachers here is a former peace corps apcd from thailand)

it does not matter if the united states is aggessive or passive when it comes to conflict. we can jump-start and get involved and fire the first shot or we could wait for the shot to be fired. the ugly simple fact of this planet at this time is that there are many people out there who live for the sole purpose of harming others to get whatever they seem to want at that time. money, power, gold, women, money, influence, men, guns, bombs, an audience, water, food. it simply would not matter to some people if you would give them the shirt off your back, they would rather kill you for it. maybe it increases the value, i really don't know.

i do not mean to say that those folks will specifically target the united states because they hate us as a country and people, although many certainly do. but they will randomly or purposefully kill without remorse or mercy and commit countless other savage acts on the way.

i am not pointing fingers and certainly have no axe to grind, but if i recall correctly, those folks in rwanda went at it pretty hard and pretty seriously and it seems to me that that was one country that the peace corps was involved with 100% and the military almost 0% (i say almost because i figure there is always a little spy sneaking around someplace for whatever reason)

not that the peace corps is in any way shape or form responsible for that activity, because they were not. i cannot imagine what the military could have done to prevent that stuff. it just sorta happens and no matter how much people want this to be a nice safe planet there are lots of people who live for just the opposite.

a world without war, armed conflicts of any sort would be great. that means more efforts from organizations like the peace corps and one heck of a lot of luck. personnally, i think we will start seeing huge increases in armed conflict accross the world.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Sunday, November 06, 2005 - 5:36 am: Edit Post

When I said there ought to be a cadre of talented and experienced men and women working on how to make the world safer without using war, I did not mean just the Peace Corps. I think peace corps is part of an effort to make the world safer, but certainly not the only one. I think the peace corps did grow out of the post WWII drive to "stop war" by trying to identify the causes of war and eliminate them. I think that is still a noble, if almost forgotten, effort.
Nope. it is not okay for the US to fire the first shot. There is international law and I think we are in violation of it. I do not think the threat from Iraq justified the invasion. I think the current tactic of making Iraq a "back fire" drawing terrorists into the fight there so we won't have to fight them here is an immoral and illegal use of another country.
Having said all this, I know that you are a soldier, that this country has gone to war and that you have been trained to react in a good guy/bad guy way and that is the position that we have placed you in. Your assessment may well be accurate; but, your prespective is from that of a combatant. That makes a difference.

By Anonymous (ppp-70-249-147-97.dsl.rcsntx.swbell.net - on Tuesday, November 08, 2005 - 1:56 am: Edit Post

"That is easy. But what about somebody who was a cook? Truck driver? medic? dental assistant? water purification specialist? records clerk? supply sergeant? mechanic? heavy equipment operator? The list goes on and on. "

You are forgetting that all of these professions demand the recruit to enter basic training as a prerequisite. The simple act of shoving a bayonet into a straw dummy should eliminate you from possible service in the Peace Corp. The ideals, values and morals of the PC and those of the volunteers must be beyond reproach or question in their quest for peace.

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) (pomproxy.monterey.army.mil - on Wednesday, November 09, 2005 - 8:59 pm: Edit Post

You both make good points. I really don't know much about international law except what I ignore in the newspapers. I never really considered myself a combatant because all I was doing was rebuilding schools, roads, sewage lines and stuff like that. Sure, I carried a rifle and a couple of grenades, but they were for self defense. If i did not have those things I would surely have been killed. it would seem that plenty of folks in baghdad believe that nationality and religion is enough to qualify a person as a combatant. you need not carry a gun to be considered an enemy. A jewish person is considered an enemy, by some. an american is considered an enemy, by some. any person working on women's rights is considered an enemy, by a lot more, but not all.

I suppose what is hard for me to understand is why people have to consider things in terms of one facet defining the entity. If you carried a a gun in baghdad you are a combatant. Doctors, nurses, lawyers, veterinarians, librarians all carry guns. Even urban planners like me carried guns. Our training for combat was termed "breaking contact". This is elaborate for "run away". If we are combatants, it is a small price to pay to do the work we did. We were not even repairing war damage, we were repairing years and years of neglect and mismanagement. Some of us got transformed into little pink clouds by roadside bombs. Again, part of the deal of college tuition and job training if nobody will believe you have humanitarian intent.

As I can only speak for myself, I would prefer a world without conflict, war, starvation, ill-will, disease or anything else that is really really bad.

If you cannot or fail to stop very bad things from happening, the least you can do is try to make things better. In the peace corps, we were placed in urban or rural areas fairly isolated from our other volunteers. Our jobs were as broad or narrow and as difficult as we could handle. One thing the peace corps never trained me to do was to eliminate entire classifications of people because i did not aggree with their decisions, politics, religious beliefs, or if they like to stick bayonettes into staw dummys. (a staw dummy never bleeds, screams, dies, or complains. we all know it is a straw dummy so it is not exactly a thing anybody takes seriously. it is a straw dummy. it is no different than gobbling up a blinking token in pac man.)

One of the main purposes in peace corps seemed to be to try to grasp the unfamiliar culture and work within the cultural limits. As it just happens, I do that in the military, with the military. It is interesting to me that people in the military hold peace corps to a lot of disdain. This is mostly to their gross ignorance of the peace corps. it would appear that most people in the military (that i talked to) believe the peace corps is nothing but a bunch of ultra liberal drugged up hippy wannabees. that doesn't exactly get me a lot of credibility up front.

In this forum, i seem to meet the diametrically opposite view. I find it very interesting and oftentimes perplexing. I have always found a way to work with people to accomplish a goal rather than work against them to find someone more like me to work with.

By MajorOz ( - on Wednesday, November 09, 2005 - 8:44 pm: Edit Post

Joanne Marie Roll said, among other things:

"...I know that you are a soldier, that this country has gone to war and that you have been trained to react in a good guy/bad guy way and that is the position that we have placed you in. Your assessment may well be accurate; but, your prespective is from that of a combatant. That makes a difference."

...right. You are too stupid to have any perspective other than the one that joey presumes is the only one that you have.

And a-nanny-moose said:

"The simple act of shoving a bayonet into a straw dummy should eliminate you from possible service in the Peace Corp. The ideals, values and morals of the PC and those of the volunteers must be beyond reproach or question in their quest for peace. "

You need to get out more.
Whose reproach?
Whose question?
The title of this discussion is Elitism. Thank you for upholding its ideals.


USAF, 1958-81: PCV, 1994-96
...and subject to recall during my entire PC time.
Some of the locals thought I was CIA -- I didn't care, and neither should you.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Thursday, November 17, 2005 - 11:42 am: Edit Post

I have the greatest respect for Bob Paul. I think it important to acknowledge that Bob is a current combat veteran, still on active duty and whose recent experience involves being the target of enemy fire and seeing, in his own words, soldiers blown into "pink clouds." He is in that position because this country,and we are all responsible for the actions of our elected officials, called him up and sent him off to war. His reality right now is totally different from the everyday peace time world the rest of us live in. And, I might add, that our ability to be safe in our workaday world may well be due to the fact, that he and others are manning the barricades. Although, I don't support the Iraq War.

What we all were speculating about was different ways of accomplishing the same policy goal. I argued that there had to be way to make the world safe without restoring to war and that the best talent should be devoted to that task. Bob disagreed and I think that is a reflection of where he is now. I think that the discussion is a good one and I hope Bob returns to it.

As an aside, I don't know who anonymous is, but I find the comments offensive. It is a priviledge to be able to work for peace without having to fight first and that priviledge was won for alot of us a long time ago by men who went to war.

As for dear Oz. because I grew up in the military, I am very familiar with the bombastic, blustering, "I am in charge and I will tell you what to think and nobody else can contradict me."..which may work for chargings up hills...but I don't think it belongs in a serious discussion with real adults.

Now, one thing the military does exceedingly well is study war.
The service academies, the army war college, all study battles and wars. What worked. What didn't work. What is a good strategy; what is stupid. And, the military practices all the time.

That is the kind of study which I think is lacking in peace time activities. For example, I think Peace Corps should be a massive classroom, examining, studying, all the time, what has worked, in terms of applied technology and applied political science. That data should be widely circulated and I think that the best minds should be devoted to developing better ways from all kinds of different agencies or NGOs. I would like to see men and women with the guts and the intelligence of Bob Paul engaged in such an endeavor.

By MajorOz ( - on Friday, November 18, 2005 - 3:22 pm: Edit Post

Joey said:

"As for dear Oz. because I grew up in the military, I am very familiar with the bombastic, blustering, 'I am in charge and I will tell you what to think and nobody else can contradict me'."

Interesting...I never, nine years enlisted and twelve commissioned, encountered that attitude. Sounds to me like the impression of an observer, rather than a participant.

She notes, further:

"I don't think it belongs in a serious discussion with real adults."

...heh: "real adults". Did I hear someone say: "elitism"

oz, still here

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Saturday, November 19, 2005 - 7:05 pm: Edit Post

I am delighted that you never encountered that attitude. I was a dependent; an army brat, never a participant.

Tell me this, if you will, Oz. Am I right that the military studies and studies battles and wars and strategies in an attempt to not to repeat past mistakes and to be able to replicate successes in new situations? Are you familiar at all with a program memo outline which I encountered in some research I was doing. It named the problem and identified contributing factors; described the solution and then gave an estimate of how successful the plan had been; ie. 50%-60% successful. Have you seen that type of report and if so, do you think that it was ever used or could be used in Peace Corps:

By RPCV (ppp-70-243-81-201.dsl.austtx.swbell.net - on Sunday, November 20, 2005 - 7:44 pm: Edit Post

Go to the following intErnet online PC library link for examples of M&E models utilized by PC at the country and PCV levels ... The agency also has such models for the agency and region levels ... There's a whole section of best and promising practices, lessions learned as well on the intrAnet site ...


There are plenty of models and guides for evaulating programs at the agency, region, country, country project sector and PCV assignment levels ... That's not the challenge.

Any decent model containing fundamental PDM and M&E tools will do ... as it's the consistent and persistent execution by persons at all levels that makes the difference ... as well as continuous training, improvement and leadership to ensure substantive M&E takes place ...

By MajorOz ( - on Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - 2:13 am: Edit Post

"I am delighted that you never encountered that attitude. I was a dependent; an army brat, never a participant."

I deduced that -- just making the point that, in my experience, the stereotype doesn't happen, even though it makes good fodder for movies and demonstrators.

"Tell me this, if you will, Oz. Am I right that the military studies and studies battles and wars and strategies in an attempt to not to repeat past mistakes and to be able to replicate successes in new situations?"

*The Military* doesn't exist. There are the generals, the guys that clean the grease traps in the mess halls, the grunts on point on patrol, the lab rat dreaming up new and interesting toys, the guy with the great hand-eye coordination who outlived his fighter pilot days and is demonstrating that he can't MANAGE two French fries on a plate.
What you describe -- the apparent obsession with past battles and the resultant templating for future ones is one of the main reasons the modern soviet army fell apart. It allowed no room for thought. The US military (with some exceptions) owes much of its success to the investment of flexibility in its decision makers, from the grunt to the corps commander.
However, as coordination is required -- carrier battle groups, for instance -- a "plan" is worked out, but it is not a construction document for pouring concrete.
Another is the nuclear triad: nuke bombers, boomer subs, and ICBM's. It would be nice if a missile isn't hitting the target at the same time one of our bombers is passing by. So there is a "plan".
But all these "plans" can be changed at whatever level is needed to make them work best, usually WITHOUT seeking permission from Olympus.
But, I ramble (babble).
Applicability to PC?
Without offense, I don't see it as a question with meaning. As, on the individual level, there is not a rigid codification of guidelines, there is nothing to be carried over to PC. Even if there were, I am a voice in the wilderness advocating the "leave me alone, I know why I am here and you hired me on the basis of my talent, so let me help these people in the way it looks to me would be best" approach to what a PCV does in his assignment.
All I want from the office is mail, medical, and an occasional cheeseburger. Other than that, leave me alone.
.........I am much further into this discussion than I intended to be............
In my military and my PC careers, that is the way I conducted myself. It seems to have worked well.
There are many similarities: dumb-ass supervisors, desk bound theoriticians, phony inspectors, etc. In the military, you have to have the minimal organization mentioned above to operate. HOWEVER, even if "they" are not good at what they are now doing, they had to do something well to get there.
Even a slight similitary to the military's managerial structure is NOT necessary in the peace corps. And you "get there" by demonstrating how true you are to the idea that if we all just hug each other, the world will be a better place.
At the supervisory level, PC sneers at the military and the military laughs at the PC, somewhat like the ralationship between psych/soch types and engineers. However, at the worker bee level, they are the same people. Therein lies my support for the new program OPTIONS.
As for me, if I am going to teach math and science to school teachers, that is what I am good at -- leave me alone and carry out your studies elsewhere. Just send me chalk when I ask for it.


oz, who called their bluff when threatened with being sent home: "Hey; it's your dollar" -- and: "No; you can't have my passport".

I am not familiar with the kind of report you describe.

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) (pomproxy.monterey.army.mil - on Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - 9:59 pm: Edit Post

I have not seen any major or significant problem with the peace corps administration in terms of planning concepts, execution, evaluation, and change. When I worked for the administratation, they were all highly motived people with a strong sense of mission and always thought of inovative ways to solve weird problems.

Actually, the peace corps has a five-year rule to ensure the administration remains goal oriented. basically, with some exceptions allowed, (there are always exceptions to rules) you can work for the peace corps administration for five years and then you have to leave.

the theory was that you would work into jobs of increasing responsibility and develop managerial skills quickly. then, you would leave to other government agencies like usaid, state, and the bunch of other federal jobs involved with devoloping and implementing foreign policy.

by the time your five year clock expired, most people would have one tour as a volunteer and five years in administration. these people would then become "decision makers" in other agencies thereby promoting the peace corps mission from higher echelons.

so the idealistic volunteer would get a five year class in diplomacy and the political realities of our governmental system and learn those constraints and how to operate and then do their jobs to affect foreign policy towards peace.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Monday, December 12, 2005 - 6:10 pm: Edit Post

Robert Kaplan has written a book, "Imperial Grunts," which speaks directly to the issues we have been discussing. Kaplan journeyed to Yemen, Colombia, Mongolia, the Phillippines, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa, from 2002 through 2004, to observe military operations of Green Berets, Marines and others. He interviews soldiers, extensively, about their mission, including the new humanitarian component. I kept checking the index to see if Bob Paul was listed as an interviewee! I couldn't find his name, but much of what Bob describes is covered here. Kaplan interviews men whose take on the humanitarian mission goals may differ from what was noted here. The book is too important to be summarized, it must be read. I think it imperative that everyone in the RPCV community becomes familiar with this report.

My personal response was to become even more concerned about the ability of the Peace Corps to maintain its independence and the integrity of its mission in the new environment, described so brilliantly by Kaplan.

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) ( on Monday, December 12, 2005 - 9:36 pm: Edit Post

Rob Shultheis has written a book too, it is about a special operations civil affairs mission in bagdad. it talks about the folks on a team doing civil affairs missions in northwest baghad. it is called, Waging Peace: A special Operations Team Battle to rebuild Iraq. I was on that team so there are nice little pictures of me and the rest of us out there. Rob is a pretty good guy, too. I should know because he lived with me for months.

I think we got the inbedded author because...well you can check out the book for yourself.

The new environment you speak about seems to be the military doing more and more humanitarian activities. Actually, i think they are just getting more publicity for the things they have done for a long time. Actually, i don't really know for sure I am just guessing on that one. I do know that the marines have a humanitarian civil affairs group. I don't believe it, but i am told it is true.

I don't get it. A soldier wears a uniform and carries a weapon and travels in groups with expensive equipment in expensive vehicles, with lots of red tape. A peace corps volunteer is usually alone on a bicycle wearing a t-shirt making decisions and commitments in a hearbeat. I did both just like that. Why can't both disimilar organizations work on similar goals?

Me, I am just looking to pack my pickup and say goodbye to monterey as fast as i can.....probably the army too, but don't tell anyone ;)

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - 9:29 am: Edit Post

"Waging Peace" is available from Amazon.com and I have just ordered it. But, Bob, I urge you and everyone to read "Imperial Grunts." The goals being described there for humanitarian missions are different from what we discussed here, as I read the book.
I really want to hear your take on it; if you can comment. Meantime, have a safe trip...people along the California/Oregon coast should be on the lookout!

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) ( on Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - 11:02 am: Edit Post

I just have to ask this question, on the lookout for what? Tsunami? Earthquake? Volcanism? Terrorists? Me driving north?

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - 1:37 pm: Edit Post

You raise an excellent question: "why can't both disimilar organizations work on the same goals?" I think the answer to that lies not with us but with host country nationals. Those are the voices which have been absolutely missing from all our RPCV discussions on goals, directions, strategies, etc. They are the ones who ought now to give their opinions.

As for the "lookout," I was just thinking that if anyone recognized you and your pick-up then they should give you a friendly wave or a honk to say "hi" and "thanks" and "hope you make it safely home." Of course, now that you have raised the bar and I'm thinking "unguarded coastlines" and "outlaw icebergs," maybe we should all be on "red alert!"

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) ( on Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - 3:35 pm: Edit Post

As I recall from my Peace Corps administration days, there was usually a round table discussion with the in-country Peace Corps Staff, the host country staff regarding the skill set for the cycle of volunteers requested. For instance, some countries would say that they needed more science teachers than english teachers.

Some countries would say they needed people with MBA's and ten years experience in small business development and at least five of those years as a CEO. The idea was to communicate the needed skill set from host country and provide a reasonable forcast of the likelyhood of recruiting and placing that person.

It would be easy to get fifty english teachers with minimal requirements to any given country compared with the business professional listed above.

Sometimes the requests were not related to skill set and were considered unreasonable. For instance, one particular country was notorious for requesting only single male volunteers. This is obviously a equal employment opportunity issue as the job was not related in any way to this request.

Alternatively, some countries requested or demanded final approval for every volunteer sent over there. This would mean an invitation to serve would be extended to some applicant and they could and did get rejected by country at the staging event. Very seldom, but it did occur. I never heard any stories of any country requesting the peace corps to get the army sent in. I am sure there have been natuaral disasters when it probably occured, but i would guess seldom.

The Peace Corps supplies VOLUNTEERS to countries that request volunteers. At what point is what a country asks for unreasonable and unethical? At what point does complying with a host country request become unreasonable and unethical? Many countries do not have our elaborate legal processes or equal employment rights. I never envied the Peace Corps staff who had to diplomatically respond to requests that would normally never be made in the US.

If a tradionally male dominated society stated they would not accept female volunteers because it would put the female in a postion of authority and responsibility far higher than allowed by their own social norms should we agree?

To me, the Peace Corps represents (among other things) a committment to help others that ask for help. It is not singularly financially oriented. It is really earnest hard work and commitment to those who merely ask for it. And to me, an applicant is not a supplicant.

If it was me, i would dump a lot more money into the Peace Corps merely to promote their activities, successes, some failures, and their people. Host country nationals do indeed have a voice. The voice i never really hear is from those people who are citizens in this country. I doubt they really know what the peace corps does or is about. How could it not impress and shock them?

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - 5:55 pm: Edit Post

You are describing host country input at the beginning. What I think is missing is host country evaluation at the end of a Peace Corps program. What did actual people insite think of the program? Was it important for a PCV to spend two years fostering changes in how a community made decisions? Does a community want a PC team with technical expertise and ability to leveage resources to build infrastructure or does a community
prefer a volunteer to become a part of the community and work from that perspective? How does that preference vary by time and culture and country and program need? What worked and what did not? How do we know? Where are those after program assessments?

Among my wierd collections of public records, I have the result of an FOIA request for program evaluations for the first twenty years of Peace Corps. There is a manual of executive summaries. One memo dated 1970 records that Colombia asked Peace Corps to justify its existence in Colombia. Evidently, an elaborate survey form was prepared ( for great consulting fees, no doubt) but was never executed. So Peace Corps never responded to a legtimate request. Now, an oral history of Peace Corps in Colombia is being done. The beauty of it is that only Colombians are contributing to that history. When it is done, we will finally have, at least, the voices of host country citizens in one time and place. There ought to be 136 + more such histories.
As for citizens in this country; again, Bob, I think you are absolutely right. Where would someone go to learn what Peace Corps did? Where would one begin? Where is the library? Where is the public record? Scattered, fragmented, and incomplete. We have recruiting posters and some classroom links. But, comprehensive, factual reports? Nada.
Where is the PC equivalent of "Imperial Grunts" or "Waging Peace?"

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 9:54 am: Edit Post

Bob Paul has been far too modest. Based on the book review of "Wagin Peace" what his unit did in Iraq was unique and important. I can't wait to read the book.

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) ( on Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 6:22 pm: Edit Post

Those after program assessments should exist. When i worked at PC headquarters in the early 90s or thereabouts they had a project management system that did everything you stated. Essentially, did the volunteers sent meet expectations and where would these projects go.

for example, a school might benefit from an english teacher, but many and most teachers did side projects to enhance their schools. Some of them were able to add science rooms and the like and thereby necessitate the need for a science teacher. Other teachers went to assist at universities to enhance the countries capababilities.

Basically, the theory was that as a country developed, their needs would change over time to require different skill sets. Some basic level skills, like mine would always be needed. There would always be a need for clean water and teachers. However, some projects were considered developmental to require a succession of volunteers with different skill sets to see the project through to completion.

The country made the requests, and headquarters determined the likelyhood of getting those folks. However, i was not a decision maker at the time and only saw this system from a distance.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 8:54 pm: Edit Post

What you are describing is perfectly sensible and what would be expected from a sophicated and modern bureacracy; a legtimate way to determine manpower needs. The kinds of program assessments I would be expecting would be unique to the Peace Corps cross-cultural mission. First, they would be in the language of the host country and second, they would include the feedback from the people most directly impacted. For example, what did the students and the other HCN teachers think about the work of the PCV teacher? Are such program evaluations/assessment in existence and if so, how could they be accessed?

By Bob Paul, RPCV Kenya (snowshoebob) ( on Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 10:27 pm: Edit Post

No clue. However, keep in mind that peace corps has a miniscule budget. The more intensive a recordkeeping system the more expensive. Designing the program evaluation is costly, writing and analyzing is costly. The more detailed these reports, the less volunteers will be sent to serve.

A balance is struck at what is needed to be roughly right in terms of reporting rather than beat the details to such a degree that the exactitude serves no purpose.

Peace Corps Volunteers have been, from my experience an autonomous bunch of folks that did not take too kindly to too much oversight and guidance. If the evaluation system is found to be obnoxious to the volunteers they would simply ignore the guidance. I would never hesitate to argue with some idiot spouting red tape i had to adhere to when i was a volunteer. Especially knowing they were in DC staring at their report.

"Hey, you want me to conduct a ten page survey in the local Luo language and translate that into english on what these folks think of a rain catchment tank at their school before I build it??!?!?! How much per diem you gonna give me for that?"

By Colin Gallagher ( on Friday, December 23, 2005 - 3:07 am: Edit Post

I think we all have been looking forward to this message. Especially Oz, who has expressed such great concern about the Congressional Declaration of Purpose for the Peace Corps in his posts.

love, C.

THURS DEC 22 2005 [NPCAAdvocacy] FLASH: Congressional Victory on Peace Corps/Military Recruitment

Dear Friends:

It is with great pleasure that the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) writes to inform you of a congressional victory on the Peace
Corps/military recruitment issue! We encourage you to share this message with other
interested members of the Peace Corps community.

Late last night on a voice vote, the United States Senate completed congressional action on the Department of Defense Authorization Act for
Fiscal Year 2006**. Included in this comprehensive defense legislation is
language to remove Peace Corps from the National Call to Service (NCS) military recruitment program. This action will end the link between
military recruitment and Peace Corps that may have changed perceptions of volunteers and thereby affected their safety and effectiveness, as well as potentially challenging Peace Corps’ independence.

The Defense Authorization bill was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this week.

Before the Defense Authorization bill becomes law, President Bush needs to sign it. While it may be several weeks before this occurs, all
indications are that the President will sign the bill, thereby removing Peace Corps from
the NCS program and ending this formal linkage between military recruitment and Peace Corps.

(**The Defense Authorization bill is different from the Defense Appropriations bill, which has been the subject of extended and contentious
debate, primarily over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.)


Thank You!

National Peace Corps Association President Kevin Quigley, Board Chair Ken Hill, and the entire Board of Directors wish to extend thanks and
gratitude to the many who joined us and played critically important roles in this legislative victory:

--First, we thank the thousands of individuals who have taken action over the past six months. Your comments, phone calls, e-mails, faxes and
letters-to-the-editor conveyed to Congress that a highly unified national constituency was concerned about this issue. Your outreach helped to create strong bi-partisan congressional support in favor of removing Peace
Corps from the NCS program.

--In the House of Representatives, we are especially thankful to Congressman John Kline for his leadership. As a member of the Armed Services Committee with 25 years of service in the Marine Corps, Congressman Kline’s understanding of NPCA’s concern resulted in the drafting of legislation that served as a vehicle for our supporters to reach out to their
representatives. We are also extremely thankful to the 38 Representatives
who co-sponsored the Kline legislation, including RPCV Congressmen Sam
Farr and Mike Honda of California.

--In the United States Senate, we are especially thankful to the offices of Senators Chris Dodd (CT), Edward Kennedy (MA) and John Warner (VA) for drafting an amendment based on the Kline legislation, including it in the
Senate version of the defense authorization bill, and shepherding the amendment through to final passage.

--We are grateful to the leadership displayed by a bi-partisan group of former Peace Corps Directors (including Carol Bellamy, Joseph
Blatchford, Nick Craw, Mark Gearan, Donald Hess and Mark Schneider) who signed a letter
prepared by the NPCA calling for the removal of Peace Corps from the NCS program and communicated their concerns with legislators. These directors demonstrated that this was not a partisan issue, nor was it an attempt
to denigrate military service. Their concern was simply to ensure the safety and effectiveness of serving volunteers by preserving the separation of Peace Corps from the military which has been central to the Peace Corps experience during the past 44 years. A special thanks to Mark Schneider, who was deeply involved in the legislative effort.

--Thanks to members of NPCA affiliate groups who played an important
The discussion on our group leaders listserv and other activities (from
group-sponsored discussions and resolutions, to information sharing and
polling on Peace Corps Online, to mobilization with certain members of
Congress) reinforced to NPCA Staff and Board that there was
support in favor of this change.

--Last, and certainly not least, we are grateful for the support
by many within the Peace Corps community who have also served in the
military. The NPCA leadership expects and hopes that qualified men and
women in uniform will continue to apply for, and be accepted for Peace
service. At the same time, we are pleased that the
change to the National Call to Service law will restore a much-needed
distinction between these two very different but important forms of

We came together as a community to protect the safety and effectiveness
volunteers and to help ensure the independence of the Peace Corps.

Please take a moment to celebrate! Together, we have scored an

Jonathan Pearson (Micronesia 87 - 89)
Advocacy Coordinator
National Peace Corps Association
1900 L Street NW, Suite 205
Washington, DC 20036
202-293-7728, ext. 21
fax: 202-293-7554

Please Support the NPCA through the Combined Federal Campaign by
#1148 on your CFC form.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) (dialup- - on Sunday, January 01, 2006 - 3:49 pm: Edit Post

“Waging Peace” –A special Operations Team’s Battle to Rebuild Iraq”, by Rob Schultheis is the story of RPCV/Sgt. Bob Paul’s
U.S. Army Civil Affairs Team A 13 and the work they did in Baghdad in the Spring and Summer and into the Fall of 2004. I’ve finished reading the book and then I went back and reread Bob’s commentary here. It is powerful. We are so fortunate to have Bob’s analysis. I am also amazed at his patience at some of my comments, which must have seemed inane, in light of what his experiences have been.

There are eight members of the team and they are assigned to do exclusively humanitarian projects. I now understand, I think, the Rules of Engagement, which Bob described. The team is armed, but they can only take defensive measures. They cannot fire the first shot. Yet, as the author, Rob Schultheis, describes in relentless, daily detail, CAT A 13 must operate in the hostile combat zone, which is Baghdad. One of the team’s vehicles is destroyed by an IED and one team member seriously wounded.
It takes incredible courage for the team to go out everyday and does their work; work which will be familiar to any RPCV who did any kind of community development.

I don’t want to write a book report. I just want people to read this one. Schultheis consistently writes from the perspective of the CAT A 13 Crew and then he begins to let you hear the voices of the Iraqi People through their interaction with CAT A 13. This kind of reporting is just absent from the media and I understand now what Bob meant and what other soldiers have said about the lack of comprehensive coverage of what is going on in Iraq.

Now, I am frustrated because I can realize how inadequate what we do know about what is going on in Iraq and uncomfortable because there are no easy answers and no easy out.

What I am left with most of all is the questions I was trying to pose when I was asking about Peace Corps program evaluations and historical records and that question is: What happened next?”

After CAT A 13 completed its tour of duty and rotated out of Iraq, what happened to the work it had done? On page 179, Schultheis describes some of that work (and any RPCV can relate):
“When you look at what Major Clark and his team have done here, it may not look like much: green grass and benches around a couple of traffic circles, clearing of trash, a few hardscrabble playgrounds and soccer fields, a half dozen committees of earnest Iraqi citizens trying to cobble together a freer, sweeter future for themselves.”

So then what happened? Was the next Civil Affairs Team able to build on what had been done? Did they develop new links? Are soldiers and Iraqis still talking “informally” about everything, under the guise of “English lessons?” Did the NGOs come through with the promised infrastructure construction? Are the young Iraqi women still as focused and determined?

No bureaucrat with a clipboard or a Geraldo-type looking for a sound bite can answer these questions and yet this is what needs to be documented. What worked? What didn’t work? What needs to be done, now? And, then what will happen, next?

I am glad that the Peace Corps option for military enlistment has been removed by Congress. The "Rules of Engagement" for Peace Corps are different than that of the military. However, I understand, now, how important the work of Civil Affairs teams are in the military. There is so much work to be done. And, to RPCV/Sgt. Bob Paul, thank you for your service.

By majoroz ( - on Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - 5:06 pm: Edit Post

You are correct; the work of CAT's are important in the military -- and have been since the Korean War. They peaked in Viet Nam, but didn't fit with the press agenda. Glad the word is finally getting out.
Thankfully, the "issue" is now settled. But, we found out a lot by talking -- what a concept.



By Anonymous (user-0cdvo40.cable.mindspring.com - on Thursday, September 21, 2006 - 10:17 pm: Edit Post

I don't know if anyone is reading this any more. If so, I thought you should know that Bob Paul was killed in Afganastan on September 8th by a car bomb. He and I were in PC Kenya together and had some ridiculous times together. Bob had an amazing wit and told the best stories. I don't really believe he's not living anymore. It seems impossible to believe. Here's his webpage from Afganastan Http://homepage.mac.com/bobpaul1/

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-245-27-107.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - on Friday, September 22, 2006 - 12:00 am: Edit Post

He served with honor Date: September 12 2006 No: 983 He served with honor
One year ago, Staff Sgt. Robert J. Paul (RPCV Kenya) carried on an ongoing dialog on this website on the military and the peace corps and his role as a member of a Civil Affairs Team in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have just received a report that Sargeant Paul has been killed by a car bomb in Kabul. Words cannot express our feeling of loss for this tremendous injury to the entire RPCV community. Most of us didn't know him personally but we knew him from his words. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends. He was one of ours and he served with honor.

By Colin G. Gallagher, RPCV ( on Friday, September 22, 2006 - 1:33 am: Edit Post

As anyone who has taken the time to read through the thoughts in this carefully worded discussion thread can see, all of the participants had much to add in ways that perhaps have subsequently influenced policy and programs both in the United States and abroad on the issue of where the line is drawn between Peace Corps operations and military recruitment. Bob was one of the key participants in this discussion and was a great human being. I think it is important that we remember him for that.

I think I should also say that I recall that Bob had family, a daughter if I am not mistaken. Perhaps there is someone reading this who knows how to get a hold of Bob's surviving family, and as such, perhaps we as the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community who knew Bob could give the gifts of kind words to his surviving family, and any financial assistance for his daughter / wife that may be needed or welcomed. Does anyone know who the right person would be to contact regarding these matters? If so please post here.

I also think that in order to remember Bob properly (and to honor him and do justice by what we do in remembrance of Bob) we would do well to remember what he did in the CAT teams and perhaps we could get some money raised to have copies of "Waging Peace –A special Operations Team’s Battle to Rebuild Iraq" provided to Congresspersons such as Sam Farr who might then be able to raise the importance of continuing the CAT team work in the halls of Congress.

A description in that book of the work of the CAT teams read, "it may not look like much: green grass and benches around a couple of traffic circles, clearing of trash, a few hardscrabble playgrounds and soccer fields, a half dozen committees of earnest Iraqi citizens trying to cobble together a freer, sweeter future for themselves.” But as we all know, this is exactly what people want and need and this is the rewarding result of the long weeks, months, and years (which after all passed so quickly) of what we did (or rather, what many host country nationals did) during our Peace Corps service. The CAT teams' work in the military such as those teams described in the book, should be the regular style of work of many of our military people abroad who are currently in regular combat units in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, and if it were perhaps the perception of Americans and relations with other countries would be different (and better) today.

Bob's death and my feelings on what we should do to honor him come at a time when I am working on a development proposal that could be used in kibbutzim to help create environments favorable to Israeli and Palestinian stakeholders working together for positive redevelopment efforts. Many of you reading this may think this is just the crazy dreaming of a lunatic planner, but I believe such things can happen. I think also, it was Bob's dream to make a difference in the world and I think he died doing that. You can see if you read his posts and if you read that book mentioned above, about who he was and the work he did. Also like me, Bob was a planner, a senior planner in Wasco County, Oregon (perhaps some of his former co-workers would know how to get in touch with his family or would contribute to an effort to get that book described above sent to Congresspersons).

This is turning into a rambling post but some of you RPCVs and others who are reading this I'm sure can understand what I am trying to say, can you respond to this post with one of your own below, and comment on these thoughts I have, and maybe we can make something positive out of this.

My love and peace go to Bob wherever he is


By MajorOz ( - on Monday, September 25, 2006 - 5:50 pm: Edit Post

I am so sorry to read of the death of Bob Paul. All I know of him is what he contributed in this discussion, but it made me want to know him better. He was logical and humorous, able to think through an issue and disagree without insult.
I think we could have shared a pitcher of beer amiably.
My thoughts of consolation go to those who loved him.


oz, Maj, USAF, BSC, (ret); RPCV, Micro-61

By Anonymous (pool-70-110-38-244.sea.dsl-w.verizon.net - on Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - 1:29 am: Edit Post

I just read the following start to finish. I was a member of the 320th Psychological Operations Co. I joined shortly after 9-11 and Bob was my "boss". He tried very hard to balance the military mission and keep to the core values of the PC. That is why he choose to serve in both PsyOp and Civil Affairs units. Bob cared. Bob served. He saw the importance in taking action and hope that our leaders would put him in the right place in order to make a difference. Like so many he did his duty and suffered for it. He came back to a country that didn't want to be reminded of it's war. His family and home became vague memories. He tried to outline the value of soldiers in the PC. And he was on to something. If anyone knows the value of peace it is the men and women returning from our batlefields abroad. If there is anyone who can make something out of nothing it is those same folks. Bob knew this and tried to let it be known via this forum. Go back and read through his postings and you'll find the story of a man who cared and tried to make a difference. He tried to walk in two worlds. In order to create a real change we must follow in his footsteps.

By S. Mauk (68-185-198-233.dhcp.dntn.tx.charter.com - on Sunday, August 05, 2007 - 10:20 am: Edit Post

A few months ago, when someone recommended that I read Waging Peace a book about a Civil Affairs team in Afghanistan, I was immediately drawn to the job and to the personality and character of Bob Paul in the text. He became a personal hero and inspiration. With lots of prayer and encouragement from my husband, I joined the USAR this spring and will leave for training this week. Shortly after I enlisted, I saw SFC Paul's name on a list of servicemembers killed in Afghanistan. Although I didn't know him but through that book, I was encouraged that even in death his hope carries on. Hopefully, as a civil affairs specialist, I'll be able to continue the work he gave his life for.

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