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Name: Ray, Charles
Current Position: Ambassador

Charles A. Ray has put in almost five decades of service during his career as both a soldier and diplomat, giving the new U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe an intriguing political and military skill-set to handle American relations with one of Africa’s most contentious regimes. He was sworn in as ambassador October 20, 2009.

A native of Center, Texas, Ray joined the U.S. Army in 1962, and was commissioned a second lieutenant three years later. His military experience covered work in public affairs, psychological operations, unconventional warfare and military intelligence, and his overseas tours included Vietnam (1968-1969, 1972-1973), Germany, Okinawa and South Korea. He retired with the rank of major in 1982.
Ray attended Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1972. He earned a Master of Science from the University of Southern California, and a Master of Science in national security strategy from the National Defense University in Washington, DC.
While serving in the Army in the 1970s, Ray contributed feature stories and editorial cartoons for the Spring Lake News in North Carolina.
After leaving the military, he decided to join another kind of service—the Foreign Service, in 1983. His early postings included serving in the U.S. Consulate General Offices in Guangzhou and Shenyang, China, as an administrative officer in Thailand, as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and in the State Department’s Political Military Affairs Bureau.
In 1998, he became the first U.S. Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
Ray’s first ambassadorship came in 2002, when he was appointed by President George W. Bush to lead the U.S. mission in Cambodia, where he served until 2005.
Then, he came back to the U.S. and served as diplomat-in-residence at the University of Houston for one year. He recruited students interested in careers in the Foreign Service or the State Department, and worked with secondary school systems, civic organizations and other groups to inform communities about diplomatic work.
In September 2006, Ray was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs. He was responsible for policy, control and oversight of all matters pertaining to missing American soldiers, including their rescue.
He is the author of Things I Learned from My Grandmother about Leadership and Life(2008), and Taking Charge: Effective Leadership for the Twenty-First Century(2009). He has published articles on leadership and social issues at Red Room, and produced stories, photography and art for publications such as Asia Magazine, Ebony, Essence, Eagle and Swan, and Buffalo Soldier.
Ray says he is “relatively proficient in Vietnamese and Thai” and knows some German, Korean and French. He is married to Myung Wook-soe.
Charles A. Ray’s Blog (Red Room)
Statement of Charles A. Ray to Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (pdf)
Ambassador Charles A. Ray (State Department)
Charles Ray Biography (Helium)

Charles A. Ray’s Official Biography

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