“I recently arrived at the American Embassy in Tunis on TDY as the facilities manager. Tunis was one of the embassies attacked by a mob in September, so you can imagine we are extremely busy cleaning up the mess and implementing new security upgrades, particularly after the Benghazi 9/11 attack…..”
From high school drop-out to working abroad in places like Tunis, Yemen, the Central African Republic and Afghanistan, Bill LaMay, ’87, embodies the spirit of many Upper Iowa University alumni. Through hard work and a desire to be a life-long learner, LaMay is an integral part of the Peacock legacy.
“I dropped out of school in the 10th-grade and joined the Army,” he said. “I took the GED, and joined for three years, but was extended for two months when the Berlin Wall went up and President Kennedy extended those in the military. I think as a result of doing that I felt that I cheated myself out of an education and began studying more than ever and went to college at night, through correspondence and off-campus studies.”
LaMay earned an associate’s degree in engineering technology from Grantham College of Engineering and a bachelor’s in general engineering from California Coast University before earning a bachelor’s degree in public administration through Upper Iowa University’s Independent Study program in 1987.
He officially retired in 1994 from the U.S. Department of Energy as an electrical engineer technician, but LaMay has done anything but watch the grass grow in Cape Coral, Fla. He maintains a personal service contract (PSC) with the U.S. Department of State traveling all over the world working in operations and maintenance at U.S. military and government facilities. Currently he is in Tunis, where he expects to be for nine months. Prior, he was on-assignment in Sana’a, Yemen, cleaning up after a mob attacked the U.S. Embassy there. “It was a mess,” said LaMay. “The mob damaged more than 22 vehicles, many heavily armored. Fortunately, no embassy personnel were injured. When the alarm sounded, all went to the safe havens.”
LaMay said the experience for him has been most unusual compared to normal embassy assignments. “The local staff employees were mostly ashamed of what their countrymen did to the embassies. In Sana’a, a large contingent of Marines arrived after the attack and the word was out. There was no way the mob would return to face them. At each embassy, there is local military on the outside of the perimeter walls that are supposed to protect the embassy. Surprisingly, they refused to take any action against their countrymen and simply moved aside to let them proceed.”
As a temporary duty (TDY) employee for the State Department, LaMay has served at many posts. Prior to Sana’a, he was assigned to Abuja, Nigeria, where he worked 90 days at the American Embassy.
Before Abuja, he spent a year in Erbil, Iraq, the capital of the autonomous region of Kurdistan. “This is the region where Saddam (Hussein) gassed the people,” he said. “In 1991, a no-fly zone was created, and the Kurds were protected by the United States. Today, we could not ask for a more reliable and friendly ally than the Kurds. It was my pleasure to have the opportunity to work with them.”
In 2010, LaMay provided electrical engineering expertise and support during the construction of the new embassy in Sarajevo, and in late 2009, held a short-term contract to assist in the completion of construction at Camp Speicher in Iraq. Earlier that year, LaMay spent time between Afghanistan and Iraq assisting in the transition for the new contract for Logcap IV, TMDE, TO3 from the former employer KBR to the new employer, Fluor.
From February 2006 to September 2007, LaMay had secret clearance as the project manager for the American Embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan, hiring American supervisors and local national office and craft personnel.
Of his career, LaMay said, “I just do not feel comfortable behind a desk. I like learning different trades – carpenter’s helper, electrician, elevator mechanic, high voltage relay technician, etc. – and enjoyed supervising others and building them into a team.
“I will be 72 this August, and although my wife would like be to consider permanently retiring, I just can’t see myself doing that. I am in excellent health and enjoy my job and travels. After a TDY assignment I am usually home for about three months before venturing out for the next assignment.”