Ambassador John E. Bennett’s most recent overseas assignment was in Iraq from March 2007 until May 2009. Recalled by the Department of State to the Senior Foreign Service following his retirement in 2001, he served in Baghdad as the political advisor and Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team leader with three successive brigade combat teams, two from the First Infantry Division and one from the 101st Airborne Division. He participated in over 475 combat patrols, including approximately 100 dismounted and some under hostile fire.
Previously, for six months in 2004, Ambassador Bennett was the political advisor to the commanding general of the 38th Infantry Division in charge of NATO’s Multi-National Task Force (North) at Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Since 2003 he has also served as a subject matter expert for US Army brigade, division, and corps preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, and Kosovo. Earlier, Ambassador Bennett served 2001-2002 in Bosnia as the head of the political department in the Office of the High Representative (OHR) at Sarajevo, including three months as the OHR’s head-of-office at Banja Luka, Republika Srbska.
Born in Canada, Ambassador Bennett spent his early years in British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, Alaska, California, and Tokyo. A graduate of Harvard College, he served in the United States Army (1965-1969) as a German-language area intelligence specialist/case officer before joining the Department of State in 1971. His initial tours were as a consular officer at Madrid, Spain, and Bremen, Federal Republic of Germany, before returning to Washington in 1976 for two years in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He returned abroad to head the visa unit at Guadalajara, Mexico, (1978-1979) and then to be consul general at Lagos, Nigeria (1979-1983). He was next the deputy chief of mission at Kampala during Uganda’s civil war (1983-1986).
Mr. Bennett returned to Washington in 1986 to attend the National War College at Fort McNair, during which time he was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service (general-officer equivalent). He was then posted as consul general at Monterrey, Mexico, (1987-1991) and subsequently as ambassador to Equatorial Guinea (1991-1994), one of Africa’s most notorious dictatorships.
From 1994 to 1996 Ambassador Bennett served successively as political counselor, chargé d’affaires, and deputy chief of mission at Panama. He then was a diplomat-in-residence at the Peacekeeping Institute, US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania (1996-1998). Ambassador Bennett next served at Tuzla, BiH, during two rotations of NATO’s Multi-National Division (North), as political advisor to the commanding generals of the First Armored Division and First Cavalry Division (1998-1999). His final Foreign Service assignment prior to formal retirement was as consul general at Karachi, Pakistan (1999-2001).
Ambassador Bennett has received numerous awards. In 2001, he was honored with the Christian A. Herter Award for his “extraordinary accomplishment involving initiative, integrity, intellectual courage and constructive dissent” during his service in Panama (1994-1996). Other honors include three awards from the President and Secretary of State for outstanding service, three Department of State superior honor awards, and three Department of State cash performance awards (the last in 2000 for service at Karachi). He also holds several military decorations, including the US Army’s meritorious and superior civilian service awards for his service in Baghdad and at the Army War College as well as NATO awards for his two deployments to Bosnia. Ambassador Bennett’s foreign languages are German and Spanish.
Ambassador Bennett is married to the former Barbara (Nickie) W. Nichols. They have two sons, Ian (a US Army officer) and Seth (a Foreign Service specialist, Department of State).