Ex-Hawthorne resident's goal as a U.S. diplomat: Doing good in Iraq
By Sandy Mazza - Daily Breeze 3/09/2008
Part of Conrad Tribble's job is trying to convince people in other countries that Americans are good people.
Often, it's not easy.
"It's tough to go out there and persuade people that the U.S. is OK," said Tribble, a Foreign Service officer for the U.S. Department of State. "This is such a huge country, it's so dominant. They feel threatened because we're so big economically and militarily."
Tribble, who grew up in Hawthorne, has spent much of his career in foreign countries. In addition to advancing U.S. policy, he provides reports about political situations abroad.
Last week, he visited his parents in Los Angeles because he will soon leave for his latest year-long assignment: Baghdad. There, Tribble will be embedded with the Army's 10th Mountain Division.
During the coming year in Iraq, he will be allowed three visits home to his wife and four children in Virginia.
"It's not an easy decision to leave my family behind, but I'm looking forward to the chance to do something good," Tribble said. "We need to figure a way to get out and honorably end what we started."
Working there will be more difficult than the three years he spent in Haiti amid violent clashes.
"Iraq is the hardest foreign policy nut to crack right now," he said. "We're trying to help the Iraqis take control of themselves. We don't want to be there."
Since joining the Foreign Service in 1987, the 44-year-old Tribble has also had assignments in Chile, Germany and the Baltic states.
In Iraq, Tribble will lead a Provincial Reconstruction Team, which will include specialists in industry, economics, business development, agriculture, city administration, budgets and conflict resolution. The team will be responsible for three districts in the eastern section of Baghdad.
There are 28 such teams across Iraq now - representing the largest U.S. effort in the war so far to build up local provinces, according to the Embassy of the United States Web site.
The teams became integral in the country's reconstruction after the troop surge last year, which made it safer for U.S. civilians to work in Iraq.
Tribble said his team will carefully push Iraqi district leaders to build up their local services and government.
"The focus is not on big infrastructure anymore. It's to build up the local capacity - building schools, small businesses, markets," Tribble said. "The grassroots development is on a smaller scale, but it's more significant."
The team's importance was highlighted in President Bush's State of the Union Address earlier this year.
Bush said that after the troop surge last year, Iraqis "saw our troops, along with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams that include Foreign Service officers and other skilled public servants, coming in to ensure that improved security was followed by improvements in daily life."
Tribble's career on the worldwide stage began at Leuzinger High School. In college, he studied history, political science and German at Loyola Marymount University. He received a master's degree in international relations at USC.
Tribble said he went straight into the Foreign Service out of college because he loved to travel, and he wanted to represent the United States overseas. Years later - despite living in the midst of violent political upheaval, and facing hostile forces - Tribble said the job is "a lot of fun".
He said he feels good about helping restore order to Iraq, and he wants to improve the image of Americans worldwide. As such,Tribble said that one of his priorities is conveying that the United States is there to help the people of Iraq.
"I always have to remember that we're not creating an American society in Iraq," he said. "We're helping them create theirs."