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Frank Angelo
Joint Staff Communications Mainstay to Retire
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2007

People joke that the pressure and stress they get while on the Joint Staff ages them seven years for every one. If that’s the case, then Frank Angelo is Methuselah.

Angelo, who has served every chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since Air Force Gen. David C. Jones in 1980, is retiring after 27 years in the Pentagon.

Angelo arrived at the Pentagon as a personnel clerk who became one of the founding members of the chairman’s communication group. “When I got here, I was an Air Force admin troop,” Angelo said in a recent interview. “I worked in the office of the chairman.”

He said he was content with that position and surprised when, in 1983, then-chairman Army Gen. John W. Vessey Jr. called him in to the office and told him he was a communicator. “They were starting up the unit, and there were four of us handling the chairman’s communications,” Angelo said.

He learned the job as the office set up to the point that today he is recognized as one of the department’s foremost experts on secure communications.

Those first days were much different from now. The group handles the chairman’s secure communications from his home, his vehicle, his office and when he is traveling. “We had a 75-pound fax machine that we used at first,” Angelo said. “Carrying that around, feeding it paper, making sure it was connected -- it was a backbreaker.”

When the chairman was on the road, Angelo or one of his mates slept on the floor of the office in order to funnel messages to the traveling party. Today, the Air Force Communications Agency handles the Pentagon end of the process.

In 1987, Angelo retired from the Air Force and came on board as a civilian under Navy Adm. William J. Crowe. He was responsible for putting in place changes to the communications system necessitated by the passage of the Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986. The act beefed up the advisory responsibilities for the chairman and created the position of vice chairman. “It increased our workload 100 percent, but it didn’t increase our manning,” Angelo said with a smile.

Frank Angelo is retiring after serving every chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since Air Force Gen. David C. Jones in 1980. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen

Angelo and his team have traveled to most countries in the world and provided secure communications from all these lands. Angelo has traveled to Mongolia, the Middle East, Djibouti, all of the ‘Stans in Central Asia. He and his team have also kept the chairman in touch in combat zones and some countries with very limited electronic infrastructures. “It is our job to ensure the chairman – as the principle military advisor to the president and defense secretary – can give his advice, no matter where he is,” Angelo said.

Angelo worked closely with each chairman, and said they all have had one common goal: taking care of the troops. “Each chairman is different,” he said. “Each has their personal likes and dislikes. At the beginning of every term, they always look at the communications group as holdovers from the previous chairman.

“But we say we serve the position, not the individual,” he continued. “Of course, you get attached to the people.”

If he had to do it all over, Angelo said, he would. “I’d do the job for free,” he said. “If you had told anyone in Minersville that I’d do this, and deal with these people, they wouldn’t believe it.”

Minersville, Pa., is where Angelo and his wife, Marjorie, will retire to. He has built a house near his family and will move in over the next couple of months. It will be a total change from his life as a communicator. “You can’t even get a cell phone signal where we’re going,” he said.


Last Updated:
10/02/2007, Eastern Daylight Time
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