The Foreign Service Journal, April 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2018 11 significant and meaningful change that strengthens individual employees and the institution as a whole. Alex Karagiannis FSO MC, retired Falls Church, Virginia Deficiencies in U.S. Crisis Response I write in reference to Jim Bever’s article on Ebola preparedness in Ghana (January-February) and earlier articles by Jimmy Kolker, Nancy Powell and Gwen Tolbert (May 2017) discussing how the State Department organized to combat Ebola globally. Elsewhere, there was lots of press coverage of U.S. military assis- tance in Liberia. While all of these reports are accurate, all of the activities described came after the fact, and the reports gloss over defi- ciencies in the U.S. government response. The Ebola crisis was well underway in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea by mid- summer 2014. (I was chargé d’affaires in Freetown in August and September 2014.) Surrounding nations, including Ghana, stuck their heads in the sand, isolated their neighbors and did not provide assistance. The U.S. government was also way behind the curve. The Ebola response group for Sierra Leone in the department was headed by an intern! Moreover, the U.S. military would not even answer the phone until instructed to do so by President Barack Obama in mid-September 2014. By the time mili- tary personnel arrived in Liberia several weeks later, the crisis was beginning to subside, and even then they were hesi- tant to engage. U.S. troops never made it to Freetown. USAID was slow to react in Sierra Leone, as well. It had no presence there, so there was no local ability to gear up. We requested a USAID DART team in early August and waited several weeks for them to deploy. When the team arrived in September, they had access to funds and were able to procure desperately needed supplies including body bags, gloves, antibiotics, space suits, etc. Thankfully the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was in Sierra Leone and in the region in numbers. It was CDC expertise that saved the day. Experts understood the disease and how it spread. They helped set up quar- antine and treatment wards, as well as laboratories. They taught public health control measures, established a hot line and counseled health officials—both local and international—on mechanisms to control the spread of the scourge. Back in Washington later in the fall, the department organized itself to cope with Ebola, but the horse was long gone from the barn. Happily, lessons were learned, and we are, hopefully, better prepared for the next round. Robert E. Gribbin Ambassador, retired Springfield, Virginia Retirement Ready Here’s a note to congratulate The Foreign Service Journal for wisdom and foresight, and to tell you how happy I was for all future FS employees when reading the superb article by Donna Gorman, “Are You Retirement Ready?” (January- February), which encourages you to prepare for retirement from your first day on the job to your last. I found the section “Going Beyond 20” especially important. I do not agree with Thomas Cymer: You may get a higher- paying private sector job, but usually not lower-cost rent, utilities, etc. The last section, “Take Action,” rounded out the points beautifully, mak-