The tragic deaths of American Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Information Officer Sean Smith, and two other diplomats Sept. 12 amplify the dangers facing Americans who represent the United States in politically unstable parts of the world.
“They often end up in deadly situations that have more to do with an individual act than with the U.S. government and its initiatives,” said Ambassador (Ret.) Joseph H. Melrose Jr. “At this early stage in the investigation, there are numerous components being examined that may, or may not, be connected to what occurred in Benghazi. Violence of this nature, whether spurred by an individual or part of a planned attack, is often the result of someone taking advantage of circumstances which can be manipulated by others to further their own agenda. And the results, as we have seen this week, can have disastrous and unforeseen effects. ” (See News story on NBCnews.com here)
Ambassador Melrose formerly served as the Acting U.S. Representative for Management and Reform at the United States Mission to the United Nations. Prior to that he served as a Senior Area Advisor to the U.S. Delegation to the 61st, 62nd and 63rd General Assemblies. Before joining the Mission, he served as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State for more than three decades, including service as U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone.
In Sierra Leone, he was responsible for evacuating the embassy when it came under attack. “I’ve been in embassy attacks at least three times,” Ambassador Melrose says. “During the attack in Sierra Leone, we removed the hard drives from the computers and destroyed any classified information.” Expecting crisis is a part of the role, he says, but the job of Ambassador relies more heavily on critical skills of negotiation and diplomacy.
In the days following the Embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya, Ambassador Melrose led the Foreign Emergency Support Team deployed to Nairobi, where he oversaw the re-establishment of Embassy operations and assisted in the recovery effort. He currently serves as the Ambassador in Residence and Professor of International Relations at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa., and as Special Advisor to the Rector of the United Nations University.
Ambassador Melrose also served in Vietnam and Syria, and as Consul General in Karachi, Pakistan, and as Deputy Chief of Mission in Nigeria. He has also held a wide range of domestic positions, including Executive Director of the Political-Military and Near East and South Asia Bureaus. He also served as a coordinator for the State Department’s post- September 11th Task Force. Melrose is a former Vice President of the American Foreign Service Association, has guest lectured at numerous U.S. universities and has published several articles on Pakistan and Sierra Leone.
His awards include the Ursinus College H. Lloyd Jones Award for distinguished advising and mentoring, the Department of State’s Distinguished Honor Award and Superior Honor Award, the Secretary of State’s Career Achievement Award, and the Presidential Distinguished Service Award. He also received the Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts of America, and the Award of Merit from the World Islamic Federation.
Ambassador Melrose earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ursinus College in 1966 and a Master of Arts degree from Temple University in 1969. He received an honorary degree in Democratic and Human Rights studies from Hilla University in Iraq, an honorary Doctor of Humanities from Francis Marion University and an honorary Doctor of Laws from Ursinus College. He has also studied at the University of Michigan under a National Science Foundation program.