By OSCAR OBONYO
It is 10am on a Friday, and as we walk past the gates of the US Ambassador’s residence in Nairobi’s Muthaiga estate, we see a man in shorts, who waves at us and dashes back to the house.
Ten minutes later the same man joins us at the gardens under a shade, accompanied by a woman. He is Scott Gration and his wife Judy.
He apologises for not being ready on time, but with a rider that he is well versed about our culture, particularly regarding time. The date is May 27, last year, and the interview with President Barack Obama’s new man in Nairobi is just getting under way: “I am here not to load anything on you or the Government. But I am here as a guest in your country, and I will act as a good guest should.
I trust the Kenyan people will be good hosts.” Fast-forward to Friday afternoon June 29, and the Obama man throws in the towel. One of the reasons given is his leadership style and one can almost certainly attribute that to his humble and non-combative nature. Now this is contradiction of a man with a military background.
Growing up in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gration joined the United States Air Force where he served from 1974 to 2006, upon graduation from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. During his early years in the Air Force, General Gration served as an F-5 and F-16 instructor pilot, including a two-year assignment with the Kenya Air Force.
At home with posting
Later in 2000 and 2001 Gration was Deputy Director for Operations in the Joint Staff in Washington. He then spent a year and a half as director of regional affairs for the deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for International Affairs.
From January to June 2003, he commanded Joint Task Force-West during Operation Iraqi Freedom. And from June 2004 to October 2006, he served as director, strategy, plans, and policy directorate of United States European Command. His decorated military record notwithstanding; Gration comes through as a soft-spoken and a kind man.
His concern in war situations is the safety of the common citizens. “When terrorist activities happen, everyone is hurt. Yes, America lost some lives in 1998 when our embassy was bombed, but you know significantly that more Kenyans died and were wounded in this attack. What we want to do is work together to ensure our people are safe,” he affirms.
The Grations were at home with the Nairobi posting. Judy was born in Nairobi and spent all her early years at the Rift Valley Academy. “I started my early years in Congo and we were evacuated a couple of times – twice to Kenya – and we stayed in Kijabe. I got to know Judy in the early 1960s, although we first met in 1953,” Gration told The Standard On Saturday.
Early as it was, the Grations amusingly observe it was “love at first sight”. Ever since, the couple that has four children and four grand children, enjoyed their youth and early stage of their marriage; camping together in the Rift Valley, and touring the rest of Kenya extensively, including Mombasa.
Indeed, the Grations have a very long history with Kenya and even as they exit, the Ambassador observed in his statement to the Press: “As we depart, we will deeply miss Kenya, the Kenyan people, our partners in the diplomatic corps, and our colleagues in the US Mission. Our hearts will remain here with you and with the true friendships that will endure until death.”