|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.