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The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) announced  Melvin “JR” Pace of Charlottesville, Virginia, as one of the 2020 Sinclaire Language Award winners for his proficiency in Cambodian/Khmer. The award honors members of the Foreign Service who have achieved an outstanding level of proficiency in a language that is difficult for native English speakers.

Pace is a special agent with the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), the worldwide law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. Department of State.

Supervisory Special Agent Anson Garlington, division chief, DSS Overseas Criminal Investigations Division, congratulated Special Agent Pace on his achievement.

“We are proud of JR’s accomplishment. This is an example of how DSS special agents differ from other law enforcement officers. DSS special agents strive to integrate themselves into the culture and surroundings when they are posted abroad, and speaking the country’s native language is a key aspect of that goal,” said Division Chief Garlington.

Ten members of the Foreign Service received the 2020 Sinclaire Language Award. Special Agent Pace was the only DSS employee to receive the honor and the only one for his aptitude with Cambodian/Khmer.

Special Agent Pace currently serves as the Assistant Regional Security Officer-Investigator (ARSO-I) at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. As an ARSO-I, Special Agent Pace provides on-the-ground investigative assistance to stop passport and visa fraud and other crimes that affect U.S. citizens such as human trafficking and money laundering.

ARSO-Is also train host nation law enforcement and immigration officials, airline personnel, and others to detect fraudulent travel documents and methods used by criminal and terrorist groups.

Special Agent Pace is a veteran of the United States Air Force and graduated from the American Military University in 2008 with a degree in Criminal Justice. He is the son of Melvin Pace, Sr. and Rebecca Davis.

Special Agent Pace has been with DSS for seven years. Prior to his current assignment, he served in the DSS Washington Field Office, and at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. In addition to speaking Khmer, Special Agent Pace also speaks Spanish.

DSS special agents serve at U.S. diplomatic missions overseas and at 33 field offices throughout the United States. They conduct passport and visa fraud investigations worldwide and are responsible for security at more than 270 U.S. diplomatic facilities in more than 170 countries around the world.

Learn More about Special Agent Pace and the work of an ARSO-I.

For more information, contact


U.S. Department of State

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