DS Special Agent Fred Ketchem was named the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security 2008 Employee of the Year.
At a November 5 ceremony at the Harry S Truman Building, Under Secretary for Political Affairs William J. Burns presented Ketchem with a certificate signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He also received a monetary award of $10,000.
The award was given to Ketchem for his superior achievements as senior deputy regional security officer during his tour of duty at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
From March 2008 to January 2009, Ketchem helped manage all security programs and investigations on behalf of the U.S. Department of State in Baghdad — site of the largest U.S. Embassy in the world. Ketchem supervised a security staff of nearly 3,500 employees — including more than 80 Diplomatic Security Special Agents — and oversaw a budget of almost one billion dollars.
He frequently briefed officials at the highest levels of the U.S. Government on complex security issues, liaised with foreign security representatives, and made life-saving improvements at Embassy Baghdad and the Regional Embassy Offices in Basrah, Erbil, Hillah, and Tallil.
Ketchem showed tremendous leadership and courage under fire in a war zone beset by more than 26,000 attacks during his tenure. In fact, soon after his arrival, the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad experienced its most intense period of sustained rocket attacks to date.
Beginning Easter Sunday, March 23, 2008, the International Zone (IZ) in central Baghdad where the U.S. Embassy is located was hit by a rocket barrage that marked the beginning of more than three weeks of sustained attacks. Over one 8-day period in late March 2008, insurgents launched more than 100 rockets against the IZ.
Rockets struck the U.S. Embassy, Chief of Mission trailers and living quarters, the U.S. helicopter and vehicle fleet, and several other U.S. facilities. Tragically, five people were killed, including two Chief of Mission (COM) staff, and 39 were wounded. It was the deadliest and costliest rocket bombardment in the history of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Despite the danger, Ketchem and his colleagues from the Baghdad Regional Security Office went to the scene of rocket impacts to search for victims and aid their colleagues during 56 separate rocket attacks. For their selfless actions under heavy fire, Ketchem and members of the RSO Baghdad team received the Department of State’s 2008 Award for Heroism.
Ketchem’s manager in Baghdad, Senior Regional Security Officer Mark Hipp, said, “The level of protection maintained by Special Agent Ketchem and his team is a testament to his superior management of our security programs. It’s particularly noteworthy given the Embassy staff’s exposure to rockets, improvised explosive devices, small arms fire, grenades, and surface to air missiles.”
After receiving his DS Employee of the Year award, Ketchem, who currently is the Special Agent in Charge of Secretary Clinton’s protective detail, was invited to the secretary’s office with family members where Secretary Clinton personally thanked him for his service and congratulated him on his latest honor.
“I was fortunate to be a vital member of a critical U.S. foreign policy initiative. Under the leadership of the Senior Regional Security Officer, my team had the unique opportunity to make decisions we believe helped to save lives. I witnessed heroism from our agents, and it was an honor for me to lead this team,” Ketchem said after the awards presentation.
The “DS Employee of the Year” award is presented in recognition of outstanding contributions by an employee in the security field.
(Left to Right) Fred Ketchem Sr., Special Agent Fred Ketchem, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Shareen Ketchem after the awards ceremony.
U.S. Department of State Photo.