MARK WOERNER ’77: Taking care of embassy business | SAL TINAJERO JR ’94: BUAA Outstanding Young Graduate Award | BRUCE BAGGE ’62: Caring for kids | JAMES KETCHEL ’51: Olympian hobby | BOB DiMEO ’83: Golfer’s dream | BETH BLACKBURN ’05: Hornets hoopla
Taking care of embassy business
A dispute over territorial waters in Ecuador and political unrest in Zimbabwe are among the governmental issues MARK WOERNER ’77 dealt with as a foreign service officer (FSO) for the U.S. government. His career took him all over the world, to countries such as Uruguay, Paraguay, Greece, Cyprus, and Hungary.
Now retired, Woerner was a management officer most of his career, overseeing the budget, human resources, logistics, security, and information management for many of the embassies where he was stationed. He now gives oral examinations to foreign service candidates.
The Pekin native remembers visiting Bradley as a transfer student and interviewing with DR. JOHN HOWARD ’53 MA ’54, professor of international studies emeritus. “The program was what I wanted. He had a huge influence on my career.”
Woerner says he was “trained to look at issues critically and to be able to see and argue both sides.” Bradley prepared him for the foreign service exam, which he passed before graduating. While waiting for a job offer, Woerner attended the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. He met his wife Ann there and, in November 1979, he was offered a foreign service officer post. He and Ann had only known each other a few months when they married before leaving for Ecuador.
Commenting on terrorism from a global perspective, Woerner says, “I was in the first class of foreign service officers after the hostages were seized in Tehran so, for me, terrorism has been a part of life overseas. There were groups shooting in airports in the mid ’80s. A good friend was killed by Al-Qaida terrorists in Jordan. I lost colleagues in the embassy bombing in Kenya. If you live in a high-threat post, your house often has a safe room with an interior grilled steel door. On the other hand, I saw places and had experiences I never would have imagined. There are some trade-offs, but overall, it’s a great career.”
Woerner’s favorite post was Zimbabwe. While stationed there as management counselor from 1999 to 2002, he assumed the post of acting deputy chief of mission (DCM), the second highest position in the embassy, under the ambassador. “We were there during a period of political unrest and economic implosion. I made recommendations and decisions that I believe helped safeguard American lives, particularly those of our Peace Corps volunteers. In my regular job, I took measures that strengthened our security posture and expanded our operational capacity, so we could continue to function effectively in a country with a deteriorating infrastructure and an unreliable supply of basic commodities, such as gasoline and diesel fuel. I was deeply involved in the purchase of land for a new, more secure Chancery complex during a period when the host government was not favorably disposed toward us. Finally, leading one of our many teams of election observers during Zimbabwe’s violent 2002 presidential elections was memorable. We all felt our efforts contributed to the U.S. response to that badly flawed election.”
Reflecting on his career, Woerner concludes, “It’s different running the business end of an embassy than a business here. You have to be aware of local labor laws and understand the country — its culture, history, and social structure. The most rewarding aspect of my career was serving my country; plus, it was a lot of fun!”
Visit our Web exclusives to read Woerner’s essay regarding his post-retirement adventure of hunting a Cape Buffalo in Zimbabwe.
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