President Obama's trip to the Middle East last week included a quick visit in Jordan to see the king.
President Obama's trip to the Middle East last week included a quick visit in Jordan to see the king. It caused a bit of a flashback for me, but in the other direction. It was a memory I'd tried to erase, but is still there.
Many years ago a confidant in the area told me that the king of Jordan was going to make a brief visit to Kansas City to accept an award. He suggested that CGSC might want to invite him to come speak to the class, which no king had ever done.
I "ran the idea up the flagpole" as an old Army saying goes, and was quite pleased when CAC headquarters told CGSC to pursue the subject. Little did I know what I was getting into.
The next call was to TRADOC headquarters at Fort Monroe, Va., our fort's higher headquarters. Put the request in writing, I was told, and send it on. I prepared a letter for the CAC commander to sign, and off the request went.
In the request, as an added inducement for the king to come, were the names of the two CGSC students from Jordan. I knew the king was a special forces officer in his army and had been at Fort Bragg and other U.S. forts for training, and although he'd never been to Fort Leavenworth, I knew he knew about CGSC.
What seemed like forever went by and no response. It had seemed a pretty simple mission to me, one the higher echelons of the Army should want to happen. To "grease the skids," another old Army expression meaning taking measures to inform people something is impending so they know about it, I called the military attaché at the Jordanian Embassy to tell him what we were doing.
Imagine my surprise when he was horrified. He said you don't just write the king a letter asking him to come visit. Officials inside the palace were touchy about correspondence to the king, and certain protocols had to be followed.
But the attaché, a brigadier general, didn't just blow me off. He said he'd begin the "greasing" process from his end, and to let him know when the letter cleared wherever it had to clear and was on the way to him.
Good grief. Six months passed, the CGSC class graduated, and no answer. Then one day, with a new class and one new Jordanian student, a thick envelope arrived. The request had gone to several agencies in the Pentagon, the State Department, and a couple of other places that pertained to the Middle East.
I called the attaché with the news, and casually mentioned that the two previous students were no longer at the fort, but a new one was. He said we'd have to send another letter, deleting the now graduates' names and adding the new student's name. Protocol and currency, you know.
No, I didn't know. I reminded him the original letter had taken a half year to return to me, and if I began the process again just to add a current name, the king would have come and gone. He seemed to understand, and said he'd notify his contact in the palace and apply "more grease."
So I sent the letter with a dozen or so endorsements, all recommending that the king be invited. The impending visit was just around the corner, and my hope was that the general's "greasing" would speed the process, and a decision, through palace protocol. Never having been in a palace, I had no idea what that might be.
While I was awaiting an answer, my confidant called to say he'd just gotten information that the king was not coming to Kansas City, someone else was. The mission had abruptly ended. And to this day I'm not sure whether I was more relieved, or disappointed.
I wonder if the president's staff had such experiences getting him invited to the palace?
John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.