Ida O. Weiner served as a senior intelligence officer in Saudi Arabia and other foreign postings.

Being an intel officer in a strange land tests limits

Dear Young Ida,

I’m writing this letter to you, knowing you’ve just landed in Saudi Arabia and have a big job ahead in Desert Storm. Serving as a principal staff officer to the brigade commander and his staff on intelligence and security matters will not be easy. I’m hoping this advice will help.

As I peer in the magic “intel” glass ball, no magic or special dust would make the possibility of facing war disappear. You have prepared to be a good intel officer. However, you fear your work is dependent on those sources that will make or break your credibility. You fear your leadership may not be enough to be successful to complete the mission and, thus, stifle your military career. You depend on the approval of your work by others and fear disappointment by your peers, leaders and your family. And most importantly, the fear of not coming home to your family, your husband and Furkids almost shatters your heart. You do not look for a way out but a way to get through it.

My advice is to avoid worrying about what others think. Do your best always regardless of how limited your resources may be. The austere conditions encountered and the cultural differences are a test of how best to accept differences in the world. Do not insist on making their world like yours. You can walk in their shoes but never own the pair. It is natural to fear death when you are in the jaws of danger. However, again, you do the best you can to take care of yourself and avoid unnecessary risks. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! When you know better, you do better!

Looking further back in your upbringing and as the oldest in your family and with your Hispanic culture, strong character building, leadership and commitment are musts. You must set the example for your younger siblings and protect them. All this is good and well, but, in your experience in Saudi Arabia, how women are treated or regarded is not your battle and should not be a distraction that takes away from your war-fighting mission. The subtle messages you send in your behavior as a soldier, woman and Hispanic may give the Saudi women you encounter enough courage to seek change for themselves.

Above all, stay true to yourself. Your commitment to your career, your marriage and your family will overcome the sacrifices like this war deployment. … In other words, your hard work and loyalty to all will have its rewards.


Older Ida

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.