Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with John H. Kelly
Not all of the class was assigned to consular positions. In fact, we received a variety of assignments. Following the eight weeks of the A-100 course, we then took four weeks of consular training—all of us in the class. That was followed by four months of French and qualified to get off language probation, having mastered the language well enough to pass with a 3-3 score. Just as I was finishing language training, we had a son—David. That prevented my wife from traveling; so in the beginning of June, I boarded a plane in New York and flew directly to Ankara, where I changed to a domestic flight and arrived in Adana. There I was met by people from the Consulate. The next morning, I met the Principal Officer—Thomas W. Davis, Jr—who expressed some amazement that I had arrived because he had sent me a telegram a couple of weeks earlier suggesting that I wait until my son was old enough to travel so that the Kelly family could arrive all at one time. I told him that I appreciated his thoughtfulness, but that unfortunately, his message had never reached me.
Davis was a wonderful teacher. He was not a great success as a Foreign Service officer, if we measure that by promotions and an ambassadorial appointment that he so deeply craved, but he was a wonderful teacher. As I said, I was the low man on the totem pole. I started as the post's consular officer—passports, visas, etc—and the administrative officer. I also was responsible for a biweekly economic report. This range of assignments was a reflection of Davis' view that junior officers should get their feet in all the activities of the Foreign Service. Later, I branched out and did some political reporting as well. Davis spent a lot of time with me, talking to me about the Foreign Service and its different dimensions. Even though there were only three Americans in the Consulate, Davis devised a training schedule that did give me an opportunity to all facets of Foreign Service work; he also spent time teaching me about various techniques used by Foreign Service officers in doing their tasks. Once, all the junior officers in turkey were brought to Ankara for a conference—orientation and training. Davis told me that I should listen carefully and observe who addressed us and how it was done. When I returned to Adana, he asked me which officers I found impressive and which were lackluster and why. Davis was very consciousness about his junior officer training responsibilities. He told me a lot of lore about why certain people succeeded and others did not.
I knew practically nothing about administrative work. I first thought that it was a burden because I didn't really know how to do anything. I was asked to be the Class A cashier—I was bonded—, I approved all the vouchers, the procurement documents; I wrote the annual reports on language training, on motor vehicles expenses, a post differential questionnaire and heaven only knows how many other annual reports were required. At the beginning, I was of course at the mercy of the local staff, but I soon learned enough to able to review their work. The local staff was a mixture of some very competent and some less competent people; many had been with the Consulate for many years, but even the “old timers” made many mistakes. We had to dismiss one of my consular local employees for taking bribes. So I learned early in my career about how one gets evidence and acting on it by dismissing an employee—it is not an easy or pleasant task.