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AFNORTH foreign policy advisor retires

  • Published
  • By Maj. Peter Shinn
  • Commander's Action Group
Members of Air Forces Northern said farewell to a professional diplomat and team member Sept. 5.

Casey Christensen, the Foreign Policy Advisor to the AFNORTH commander, is retiring at the end of September after 27 years with the Department of State and three years with AFNORTH.

As the POLAD, Christensen was primarily responsible for ensuring the AFNORTH commander had the information necessary to perform the mission efficiently and effectively, and provide understanding of the foreign policy implications of potential courses of action in military operations.

Lt. Gen. William H. Etter, Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region - 1st Air Force (AFNORTH) commander, paid tribute to Christensen before a meeting of the organization's directors and key leaders.

"Casey provided international insight and analysis to me and my predecessor that was exceptionally well-informed and grounded in an incredible record of diplomatic successes," Etter said. "For those of you who didn't get the opportunity to visit with Casey - you missed a chance to benefit from his experience and wisdom."

Christensen's career with the State Department began with an assignment to Guatemala in 1988, followed by progressively more responsible diplomatic posts in France, Bolivia, Austria, Nicaragua, Ukraine and Sweden. Christensen's final assignment before joining the 1st AF staff was as the Political/Economic Counselor for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Christensen earned five Superior Honor Awards from the Department of State over the course of his career, an accomplishment Etter described as "remarkable."

Beyond the awards, Christensen said he enjoyed playing a key role in some of the most important events of the last three decades.

"I worked closely with the Chief of Staff to [French] President [Francois] Mitterand on counter-terrorism issues leading up to the first Gulf War," Christensen said. "I even found myself alone in conversation with Mitterand once, though the exchange was brief," he added.

Christensen also found himself in meetings between President George H. W. Bush and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, as well as President Bill Clinton and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, among others.

Daniel Ortega, now the President of Nicaragua, once arrived with a camera crew at a cello recital given by Christensen's son.

"Ortega's children took music lessons from the same teacher as my children," Christensen explained. "He also owned a TV station dedicated primarily to programming about him. The music teacher had to ask Ortega to leave so my son could finish his recital."

Some of Christensen's most recognized work came in the former Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s. As a political officer assigned to the OSCE, Christensen negotiated and opened the first OSCE missions to Bosnia and Croatia. He also managed the deployment and reporting of hundreds of international observers to the war-torn nations.

"The work was not without risks, but we backed up our diplomacy with action," Christensen said. The State Department awarded Christensen two Superior Honor Awards for his work in the Balkans.

Despite his decorated service with the Department of State, Christensen still made time for family. He and his wife Margie have been married 41 years and have 10 children, and 18 grandchildren with "one more on the way," Christensen said.

"We were stationed in some nice places and some not-so-nice places," Christensen said. "The trick was making sure we had the kids in the nice places."

Christensen's children have also gone onto impressive professional successes of their own. One of his children is an Air Force Academy graduate, while another is still attending the Academy. One child is an MIT graduate, and another graduated from Stanford. One daughter is the managing director of the Boston Philharmonic, and his youngest is attending Florida State University.

Christensen said he is proud of all his children.

"My family really is my legacy," he said.