Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Peter J. Skoufis
Charlie Tanguy was one of my colleagues in the course. Most of the people in the class were expanding their foreign service experience; they had been serving in other foreign service functions, like political and consular. They wanted to take a crack at an administrative officer position. I thought the course was very good. I was very impressed. It covered the whole range of administrative activities as well as the role of administration in the Foreign Service. That role had already taken root in the field; there was an understanding of the authority of the administrative officer and his or her relationship to the rest of the Embassy. FSI helped us understand that relationship better and how an administrative officer fitted into the Ambassador's team. My later experience indicated that there was still a lot of work to be done in terms of enhancing the role of administration abroad, but as time went along, it became much more effective. But when I attended FSI, this process of understanding and acceptance had already started. I was satisfied with the course and found it very useful once I got to South Africa. Waterman tried to instill a “can do” attitude which impressed me greatly. He tried to point out that once we were at post, we would be very much more on our own because were far removed from Washington; our main objective was to get the job done. That job was essentially to facilitate the work of all the other Embassy staff members. He told us to keep the Department informed of what we had done, but that we should not hesitate to get things done, within the law, without asking for permission all the time. That view became instilled in us and I was very pleased with that view because that was my philosophy then and later on in my career. I always favored getting the job done and worrying about the paper work later.
Q: You finished your FSI training in December, 1952 and went to Pretoria as administrative officer.
SKOUFIS: That is correct. We flew to Pretoria after having spent the Christmas holidays at home. We flew to Rome to pack our belongings, which had been left there because our original travel orders assumed that we would be returning to post. By that time, we had acquired a refrigerator and that was our sole household furniture. We then flew to South Africa on a Pan American Constellation plane, stopping at a couple of airports on the way. It was a long flight in those days and we landed rather groggy. We were met by an Embassy representative and taken to our hotel.