U.S. diplomat goes from Walworth County to the world
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Diplomat Scott Rauland, right, a Big Foot High School graduate, talks with students after giving a presentation about U.S. presidential elections last February at the International Islamic University Malaysia. A U.S. diplomat, Rauland formerly served as public affairs officer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo submitted.
WALWORTH -- Scott Rauland knows all too well how incidents can turn into tragedies, such as the assault that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on the anniversary of 9-11.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
Rauland is director of the Foreign Policy Advisor program, which pairs U.S. State Department personnel such as himself with military commanders around the globe, a relationship that has been tenuous at best until it was expanded under Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“The state and military departments aren’t used to working together, so it’s about building trust,” said Rauland, a 1976 Big Foot High School graduate. “This position has been a good change of pace for me.”
That’s because Rauland’s 20-year diplomatic career has seen him live and work in some of the most isolated and dangerous places in the world, including Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“I witnessed what probably were the high and low points of my career within an 18-month span,” Rauland said. “I actually was in Washington on 9-11 (2001) and could see the smoke coming from the Pentagon … it was so terrible and something I never dreamed of seeing. But the show of good will, grief and sorrow from all corners of the world during the first month or two after that was so touching, and it showed that maybe all of the investments we had made in reaching out were making a difference.
“But then in March 2003, while I was serving in Quito (Ecuador), there was an anti-American demonstration about the war in Iraq, and there were about 50,000 protesters,” Rauland added. “It was bad enough that we moved into a secure vault. If not for the Army and embassy security, who used a lot of tear gas, it could have gotten much worse.”
Rauland said it was a great example of how quickly things can get ugly.
“There’s been a lot of finger pointing, and it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback,” Rauland said. “But there wasn’t the security support in Libya to keep control like we had in Quito. Things happen so quickly, so it’s hard to know what to do or what happens during a situation like in Benghazi. I’ve been there, so I can sympathize.”
His South American experience wasn’t the first near miss for Rauland.