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History of CIA

CIA Trailblazers

CIA Trailblazers are officers throughout CIA’s history who have distinguished themselves as leaders, made a real difference in pursuit of our mission, and who served as a standard of excellence for others to follow. By their actions, example, innovations, or initiative these talented officers have taken CIA in important new directions and helped shape the Agency.

The CIA Trailblazer award was established in 1997 when CIA celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Nominations were open to officers of any grade, in any field, at any point in CIA’s history, who distinguished themselves as leaders, made a real difference in pursuit of our mission, and who served as a standard of excellence for others to follow.

A special steering committee selected 50 individuals from over 300 nominations. These trailblazers received medallions from then-Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet.

Over the years, several additional CIA officers have been identified as CIA Trailblazers: Currently, 83 officers or teams have received the coveted award. We’ve publicly released the names of 73 Trailblazers.

We invite you to read about our Trailblazers’ achievements below.

The following individuals are a sampling of the many talented CIA officers who have received this prestigious award.

gold medallion

The CIA Trailblazer Award gold medallion

The First Trailblazers:

Robert C. Ames

Mr. Ames, an outstanding Arabist, inspired subordinates and sensitized new officers to the need to learn and appreciate the foreign cultures in which they work. He served with distinction as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia and as Director of the Office of Near Eastern and South Asian Analysis. Tragically, Robert Ames was killed in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983.

Joseph A. Baclawski

Dr. Baclawski was a pioneer in providing U.S. political and military leaders with accurate, reliable mapping information on the Soviet Union. He was the principal adviser to the Chairman of the Committee on Imagery Requirements and Exploitation for all mapping issues relating to satellite photographic sources.

Matthew Baird

U.S. Air Force Col. Matt Baird came to CIA to develop an officer training cadre and a career development program. Under his leadership, the Junior Officer Training (JOT) Program was born and became the prototype for career training at CIA.

Richard M. Bissell

Mr. Bissell was responsible for developing the U-2, the highly capable reconnaissance aircraft that has served the US for more than 60 years. He developed the first photo- reconnaissance satellite program by pushing state-of-the-art technology.

David H. Blee

Mr. Blee held several senior positions in the Directorate of Operations and is recognized for creating a professional counterintelligence discipline. He emphasized and implemented a spectrum of counterintelligence measures inherent to successful Agency operations.

Paul A. Borel

As Director of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service Mr. Borel was responsible for merging foreign broadcast monitoring with foreign press scrutiny to provide the first combined open source media collection in CIA. He also led the Intelligence Community’s pioneer work in computer-supported information handling.

Patricia L. Brannen

Ms. Brannen was a role model for all executive secretaries. Her industry, leadership, and commitment to professional standards of performance encouraged the development of an expert group of CIA secretaries.

Archie R. Burks

As Director of the Office of SIGINT Operations, Mr. Burks developed technical intelligence programs which gave the nation new capabilities in signals and imagery Intelligence.

Joseph B. Castillo

Dr. Castillo is recognized for his outstanding performance in analyzing foreign weapons systems, support to senior policymakers on arms control issues, leadership of major offices in three CIA directorates, and support to the recruitment and mentoring of minority employees.

David E. Coffey

Mr. Coffey’s exceptional ability to solve operational problems with technology culminated in his successful creation and maintenance of an extremely sensitive covert communications capability. His leadership significantly enhanced the integration of technical support into espionage operations.

John E. Craven

A Senior Scientist, Dr. Craven’s contributions range across a broad spectrum of advanced computer and communications technologies. He provided new and practical solutions in high speed computing logic, signal processing, and communications systems.

James H. Critchfield

Mr. Critchfield established relations with counterparts in the West German intelligence services when that country emerged from the status of an occupied nation to become a sovereign power. He was an expert on central European matters and later distinguished himself on Middle East issues.

Benedetto DeFelice

Mr. DeFelice developed the original, forward-leaning benefits and services programs for Agency personnel. His personal help to employee families with medical, financial, or day-to-day living problems is legendary.

Leslie C. Dirks

Mr. Dirks provided the inspiration, visionary zeal, and technical expertise to create a new class of overhead imagery systems that revolutionized intelligence collection. Those systems represented a major breakthrough in CIA’s ability to achieve intelligence dominance during the Cold War. Mr. Dirks was the founder and first director of the Office of Development and Engineering and later served as the Deputy Director for Science and Technology.

William F. Donnelly

Mr. Donnelly set a powerful example across the Agency of enlightened leadership, executive accountability, sound intelligence tradecraft, and personal and professional integrity. His assignments ranged from case officer and Chief of Station to Deputy Director for Administration and Inspector General.

Janet V. Dorigan

Dr. Dorigan is the primary force in the Intelligence Community in developing new and innovative approaches to identify biological materials of high intelligence interest. She is an expert in genetics and molecular biology and has made significant scientific contributions to her field and to the Intelligence Community.

Carl E. Duckett

Mr. Duckett was the founding father and visionary leader of the Foreign Missile and Space Analysis Center, which was the vanguard for the Intelligence Community’s ability to understand threats posed by missiles and space-based weapons systems. He later served as Deputy Director for Science and Technology.

Allen W. Dulles

As the first Deputy Director for Plans, Mr. Dulles set the standards for clandestine tradecraft and asset handling and built the covert infrastructure of CIA. Named Director of Central Intelligence in 1953, he created the architecture of the modern CIA and led the organization from its tentative beginnings to a position as preeminent provider of intelligence to the President and the National Security Council.

Agnes D. Greene

Ms. Greene’s pioneering efforts as a reports officer and later a senior manager set the highest standards of integrity, credibility, and efficiency in processing intelligence information. She later served as the Directorate of Operations Chief, Reports and Requirements for the Far East Division.

Howard P. Hart

Mr. Hart was the driving force in leading a successful paramilitary covert action program. He distinguished himself with his inspiring and effective leadership while serving as the first director of the DCI’s Counternarcotics Center.

Earl M. Harter

Mr. Harter is recognized for his outstanding leadership as the founder of one of the most sensitive and productive technical operations in CIA’s history. He led dozens of sensitive and dangerous overseas operations and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Richard M. Helms

The consummate operations officer and first careerist to head the Agency, Ambassador Helm’s service epitomizes the integrity, courage, and quiet competence that mark the intelligence professional and has made him a uniquely eloquent advocate of CIA and its proper national security role. After an unparalleled career that culminated as DCI during the height of the Cold War, he has continued to serve both his country and the Agency by sharing the wisdom and experience gained over a lifetime of dedication and leadership in the intelligence profession.

Evan Hineman

Mr. Hineman was one of the Agency’s most distinguished engineers, analysts, and weapons technologists. He demonstrated that technically complex clandestine collection could be partnered successfully with rapid processing and sophisticated research and analysis to produce world-class scientific and weapons intelligence.

Lawrence R. Houston

Mr. Houston was the principal drafter of the National Security Act of 1947, which created the CIA. He served as the Agency’s first General Counsel, an assignment that lasted for 26 years. During this time he was a key adviser to nine Directors of Central Intelligence.

Paul L. Howe

Mr. Howe engineered the Agency’s single greatest advance in operational photography—the ultraminiature camera. His work enabled us to photograph materials under the most difficult operational circumstances. The value of the intelligence collected solely as a consequence of this capability is beyond calculation.

Sherman T. Kent

Mr. Kent is recognized for his distinguished 15 year chairmanship of the Board of National Estimates and his contributions to the craft of intelligence analysis. He promoted the concept of strategic intelligence that goes beyond daily events and helps policymakers deal with fundamental challenges to national security.

Lyman B. Kirkpatrick

An administrator and adviser to early DCIs, Mr. Kirkpatrick was instrumental in helping design and implement much of the original organizational structure of the Central Intelligence Agency. CIA’s first Executive Director-Comptroller, he served with distinction in a variety of other leadership roles, including Inspector General.

George Kisevalter

A superior case officer, Mr. Kisevalter’s exacting standards of tradecraft, operational security and asset motivation were instrumental in inspiring at least two major foreign assets to provide intelligence critical to the national security of the United States. Kisevalter was the first case officer to be promoted to the senior executive level based solely on his operational accomplishments rather than on management assignments.

Lloyd Lauderdale

Mr. Lauderdale developed an innovative solution to one of the Intelligence Community’s most critical technical collection problems. His proposal was risky and was one of the most ambitious space initiatives undertaken by CIA. The program was successful and greatly enhanced the nation’s national technical means.

Richard T. Lehman

Mr. Lehman developed the President’s Intelligence Checklist (now the President’s Daily Brief), a daily publication that won the approval of President Kennedy. This publication has kept presidents and other senior policymakers informed about worldwide developments for the past 36 years. Lehman served later as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council.

Henry S. Lowenhaupt

Dr. Lowenhaupt is recognized for his innovative and visionary work in developing indicators for the recognition of foreign nuclear facilities and activities. His leadership in the field of nuclear intelligence — over a government career spanning 50 years — provided the US with intelligence critical to judgments on Soviet and Chinese nuclear weapons developments.

Arthur C. Lundahl

Mr. Lundahl is recognized as the father of imagery analysis and the creator of a world-class national center for producing intelligence from overhead imagery. This thorough and highly technical intelligence enabled Lundahl to gain the confidence of four US presidents.

Harold M. McClelland

US Air Force Maj. Gen. McClelland was the principal architect of the Office of Communications and served as its director for 14 years. His innovative vision led to the in-house development and manufacturing of communications equipment, and provided the Agency with secure communications around the world.

John N. McMahon

Starting at the bottom rung of the Agency career ladder, Mr. McMahon had the distinct honor of holding leadership positions in all four Directorates, on the Intelligence Community staff, and as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence. His deep understanding of the people and substance of the intelligence profession shaped the morale of CIA’s workforce, and the high standards of achievement to which they aspire.

Antonio J. Mendez

Mr. Mendez is recognized for founding the development and engineering capability in the Agency’s operational disguise program. His ideas led to the design and deployment of a series of increasingly sophisticated tools that enabled operations officers to change their appearance convincingly.

Cord Meyer

Mr. Meyer defined the concept, doctrine and implementation of covert action. He was especially effective in using foreign media publications in support of US foreign policy objectives. At the height of the Cold War, he orchestrated much of the free world’s effort to counter the Soviet-dominated Communist Front organizations.

Eloise R. Page

Ms. Page served as a role model for many at CIA. She became the first female Chief of Station, the first female senior executive, and the first woman to head a major Intelligence Community committee. She was recognized for her operational skills and exceptional management capability.

John Parangosky

A pioneer in marshaling the technical capabilities of industry for the Intelligence Community, Mr. Parangosky is recognized for his management of the joint contractor team that produced the world’s fastest and highest flying stealth reconnaissance aircraft. His contributions paved the way for creating the Directorate of Science and Technology.

Walter L. Pforzheimer

Mr. Pforzheimer played a major role in securing passage of the National Security Act of 1947, and served for ten years as CIA’s first Legislative Counsel. He promoted the constructive interplay between intelligence professionals and legislators that has sustained and strengthened the Agency. He later served as the first Curator of the Agency’s Historical Intelligence Collection.

Carol A. Roehl

Ms. Roehl distinguished herself during overseas assignments in primitive and dangerous locations where she conducted operations and collected needed intelligence to support U.S. policy. She served as a Chief of Station in three major posts and became a Deputy Division chief in the Directorate of Operations.

Linus F. Ruffing

Mr. Ruffing was a pioneer in developing a centralized computer center and a professional automated data processing service. He personally fostered upward mobility programs and instituted a sign language training program for Agency employees.

Howard Stoertz

Mr. Stoertz was a pioneer in providing intelligence support to senior policy consumers for the negotiation of arms control agreements, including SALT treaty monitoring. He was the first Director of the Imagery Analysis Service, the first Chief of the CIA SALT Support Staff, and the first National Intelligence Officer for Strategic Programs.

John R. Tietjen

The first Director of the Office of Medical Services, Dr. Tietjen served as a senior medical officer for nearly three decades and developed one of the finest civilian medical programs in the federal government. His managerial direction extended worldwide to provide medical services to employees and families overseas.

Omego J.C. Ware, Jr.

Mr. Ware is recognized for creating and leading the first independent Office of Equal Employment Opportunity in the Agency. Under his leadership, management took actions to increase minority hiring and establish diversity programs.

John S. Warner

Mr. Warner played an important role in drafting the National Security Act of 1947. He served as the Agency’s Legislative Counsel, Deputy General Counsel, and General Counsel, contributing materially and extensively to the Agency’s development.

Albert D. Wheelon

Dr. Wheelon, a visionary architect of the application of technology to intelligence, organized the Directorate of Science and Technology and provided the inspirational leadership that made the directorate a major force in the Intelligence Community. He ensured that CIA would play a major role in the National Reconnaissance Program.

Lawrence K. White

US Army Col. White served with great distinction as Director of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service. His unique contribution, however, was as Deputy Director for Administration and, later, as Executive Director-Comptroller for all the DCIs from Walter Bedell Smith through Richard Helms.

Frank G. Wisner

Mr. Wisner’s unique and courageous endeavors established the doctrine for the use of covert action in support of U.S. national security objectives. He served as the Assistant Director of the Office of Policy Coordination, the Deputy Director for Plans (Operations), an overseas assignment as Chief of Station, and as Special Assistant to the DCI. His depth of knowledge in planning and directing clandestine operations contributed greatly to some of the most intricate and challenging undertakings in the early history of the Agency.

Two men sitting across from each other at a wood table scattered with papers and other objects.

From our Intelligence Art Gallery, this painting titled “ARGO” depicts Tony Mendez (a CIA Trailblazer) creating items for the daring mission.

2007 Trailblazers:

Charles E. Allen

Mr. Allen was the first and only Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Collection from 1998 until 2005, capping a 47-year Agency career by fundamentally strengthening the Intelligence Community’s collection capabilities. He led a comprehensive analytical effort to identify intelligence gaps—both tactical and strategic—and worked with collectors from all agencies to develop ways to close them. The effort covered the full range of national security concerns, from terrorism and weapons proliferation to hard-target countries and emerging threats. Mr. Allen’s work was so successful that it served as a model for today’s Office of the Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Collection.

Woodbury Carter

Woodbury Carter overcame numerous bureaucratic obstacles to establish an extraordinarily productive technical collection program in 1970. This highly compartmented program, which continues today and is the longest-running technical collection program in the Intelligence Community, has had major intelligence pay offs. It has contributed vital information that influenced the Camp David peace talks, the Iran hostage crisis, the Falklands War, and the ongoing fight against global terrorism.

Leslie A. Dreiling

As chief scientist of the Information Operations Center (now Center for Cyber Intelligence), Dr. Leslie Dreiling brought ground-breaking technological innovation to bear on some of the Agency’s most-challenging problems, including terrorism, weapons proliferation, and drug trafficking. He was the father of at least five key CIA initiatives that constituted major contributions to the foreign intelligence mission of the CIA and the Intelligence Community. Dr. Dreiling, was awarded the CIA Scientist of the Year for the years 1992 and 2002. In 2003 Dr. Dreiling became the first individual recipient of the John A. McCone Award, and in 2006 he was awarded the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal in recognition of his sustained and distinguished meritorious service and achievements within the Intelligence Community.

Patsy Hallums

While serving for 17 years as CIA’s Casualty Officer, Ms. Hallums became the face of CIA to families of officers killed in the line of duty, or who died from accidents or illness. She assisted and comforted hundreds of family members in their time of greatest need, drawing on expertise in employee benefits, hospice care, bereavement, traumatic stress, wills, powers of attorney, and many other areas. Much of this expertise she developed on her own, through personal dedication to this special mission, and in so doing, she left a training road map for others to follow. Even as she provided the best care and support to individuals and families, Hallums created programs that have had lasting impact. She established our Casualty Cadre, a group of Human Resources officers trained to assist in the event of mass casualties. She researched and wrote a manual offering guidance on various religious and cultural differences that may be important when an officer dies. And she helped the Department of State create a casualty assistance program modeled after CIA’s. Ms, Hallums’ devotion to CIA’s mission, its people, and its extended family left an indelible positive imprint on our organization.

Bonnie Hershberg

Ms. Hershberg helped instill among Agency leaders the understanding that CIA must use to their full potential the talents of men and women from a wide variety of racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Upon promotion to the Senior Intelligence Service, Ms. Hershberg organized a group of senior women—the SIS Women’s Group—to network and promote diversity at all levels. During the 1990s, she shepherded a comprehensive study of the barriers that were preventing women and minorities from reaching the top levels of the Agency. Armed with the results, she and the SIS Women developed plans to address each barrier and won the support of Agency leaders to change key policies. Improvements ranged from ensuring that promotion and selection panels have minority representation, to conducting formal training for upwardly mobile GS-15 women, to strengthening mentoring for junior officers. Ms. Hershberg’s efforts directly resulted in a significant increase in the number of women and minorities in critical positions, a permanent change that will vastly improve our ability to collect, analyze and communicate vital intelligence to our nation’s leaders.

John T. Lewis

Mr. Lewis led many activities within the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations, which significantly enhanced the Agency’s technical capabilities for tagging, tracking, and locating. Throughout his work, Mr. Lewis and his team fostered joint operational deployments and relationships with Intelligence Community (IC) and Defense Department partners. His efforts to mature these techniques have had a lasting impact on our mission and the success of the IC as a whole.

Daniel McGrath, Jr.

Mr. McGrath, Jr. mastered and refined the core capability of planning and executing some of the most sensitive and riskiest missions undertaken by CIA. Along the way, he developed unmatched expertise and established the planning methods, training, tradecraft, and standards used today for operations. In addition, Mr. McGrath broadened and deepened the Agency’s relationships within the Intelligence Community (IC) by working collaboratively on new technologies. Over the years Mr. McGrath orchestrated and greatly strengthened a unique and essential capability that significantly enhanced IC insight into high-priority national security issues.

John E. McLaughlin

Mr. McLaughlin, a former Deputy Director for Intelligence (DDI), Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (DDCI), and Acting DCI, guided a generation of intelligence officers during his distinguished 32-year career at CIA. Widely recognized for his mastery of analytic tradecraft and constant search for ways to improve our people and products, McLaughlin inaugurated the Senior Analytic Service and created the Sherman Kent School for Intelligence Analysis while serving as DDI. He viewed the SAS as a means of institutionalizing a DI career path that ensures the opportunity to reach the top grade ranks by remaining a full-time analyst rather than a manager. McLaughlin also believed that establishment of the SAS would encourage analysts of deep expertise to stay in the business of directly producing analysis on issues of critical and enduring importance to the security of the United States. McLaughlin’s other major institutional legacy was the standup of the Sherman Kent School. Since its founding in 2000, the Kent School has taught thousands of new analysts the fundamentals of analytic tradecraft and has broadened and deepened the expertise of veteran analysts. It has been vital to ensuring that CIA delivers accurate, insightful, relevant finished intelligence to our nation’s leaders.

George J. Methlie II

A 32-year intelligence professional and nationally-recognized expert in power source technologies, Mr. Methlie led and inspired CIA’s Power Sources Program for much of his career and contributed to a wide range of tactical and strategic operations. He was instrumental in the development of safe, very high energy density, Lithium Carbon Monofluride batteries. This enabling technology has been used in many of the IC’s most important technical collection program. Additionally, in the mid-1980s, Mr. Methlie’s guidance helped maintain the capabilities of essential intelligence programs, enabling them to collect valuable information far beyond their life expectancies. Mr. Methlie also championed the production of high-capacity, high cycle-life Lithium-Ion cells to meet the unforgiving environment and requirements of the next generation of satellites. His expert advice to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration extended the life of the Hubble Space Telescope and saved the NASA battery program from dissolution in 2005. Mr. Methlie’s expertise and counsel had impact far beyond the programs he managed and the years he served.

Betty Crawford Villemarette

For more than 50 years, Ms. Villemarette has contributed to CIA’s mission from several vantage points: As an Agency spouse accompanying her husband on five overseas assignments, as a staff employee for more than a decade, and as a long-time member of our Family Advisory Board. A tireless advocate of Agency families, Ms. Villemarette was the driving force behind legislation that corrected an inequity by strengthening pension and health benefits for divorced spouses of CIA officers who serve abroad. In 1980, she helped establish the Family Employee Liaison Office, which is today known as the Employee and Family Services Division. The Division serves as a focal point for family support in the Agency, along with the Family Advisory Board, which Villemarette helped create in 1989. As a key member of the Board—a group of non-employee spouses—she has advised many senior Agency leaders on issues important to families. Her hard work and dedication, much of it done on a volunteer basis, will benefit thousands of CIA families for years to come.

Afghanistan Team

On September 11, 2001, CIA had no component, no staff, and no support structure in place to manage and launch a covert action war against a terrorist organization hiding in a fractured land on the far side of the globe. But CIA had the expertise to build such an organization. And within 15 days of the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, CIA officers were on the ground in Afghanistan. Their mission: Find and destroy al-Qa’ida and its Taliban supporters.

Led by Henry A. Crumpton, the head of the Counter-Terrorism Center’s Special Operations, the campaign applied every Agency core capability. Unilateral human intelligence networks developed over decades were the foundation. Liaison relationships were leveraged to their fullest extent. Core collectors expanded our inventory of human assets exponentially. Reports officers produced hundreds of intelligence reports on laptop computers in primitive, combat conditions. Analysts applied a wealth of knowledge and experience to make sense of information collected and to inform further operations. Targeters used revolutionary mapping technology and worked more closely than ever with the U.S. military and Intelligence Community partners. SIGINT and imagery were fused with HUMINT to guide collection and operations.

Communications officers developed systems that were portable, timely, secure, and flexible. Support officers delivered on tasks never before imagined, building physical infrastructure from the ground up in the midst of ongoing operations.

Forward-deployed CIA teams were comprised of paramilitary and operations officers, medics, and communications specialists. Many of these officers performed remarkable feats, with team leaders receiving the Intelligence Cross for supreme valor on the battlefield. One team member, Johnny Micheal Spann, sacrificed his life.

The Afghanistan Team—courageous and dedicated men and women from every Directorate—brought an impressive mix of experience, skills, and instincts to wage a phenomenally successful campaign in partnership with U.S. military forces. By the second week of December, all major Afghan cities had fallen and surviving enemy forces were on the run. The team’s unprecedented performance will continue to serve as a model for years to come.

A.Q. Khan Takedown Team

For six years, Counterproliferation Division’s Special Activities Unit identified, tracked, and infiltrated a nuclear weapons proliferation network run by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. With partners throughout the Agency, across the Intelligence Community (IC), and in the United Kingdom, the team planned and executed operations that led to Khan’s downfall in 2003 and to the disruption of his illicit weapons sales. The team penetrated Khan’s network from multiple directions and devised creative strategies to thwart it, using a combination of HUMINT and technical operations. Their work was the longest-running and most successful CIA operation against weapons of mass destruction in Agency history, and it included the longest-running computer penetration in IC history.

The intelligence collected and pieced together by the Khan takedown team led to three seminal events: In October 2003 was the largest seizure of nuclear components in history. Soon thereafter, Khan was placed under house arrest in Pakistan after his sales of nuclear technology to North Korea, Iran, and Libya were disclosed. And, finally, in December 2003, Libya renounced its WMD programs and surrendered its nuclear technology. This historic decision was due in no small part to the intelligence gathered by the Khan takedown team.

Shortly before leaving CIA, former DCI George Tenet said the team’s work “will rank up there as one of the most spectacular intelligence accomplishments in the history of CIA.” And former DDCI John McLaughlin noted that the effort was “the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a perfect intelligence operation.”

Libya WMD Removal Team

Libya’s announcement that it would forgo weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles was made possible by the work of a small, secret, highly mobile team of Directorate of Operations officers. With a mandate from the President to explore a vague Libyan offer to end its WMD programs, then-ADDO Stephen R. Kappes assembled in early 2003 a team of experts for this mission.

Following negotiations by Mr. Kappes with Qadhafi and his senior intelligence chiefs, the US team—together with a group of counterparts from the UK — traveled to Tripoli in October and December 2003. There they negotiated firsthand access to Libya’s weapons program. Peeling back layers of Libyan resistance, the team pushed for hidden details, delicately employing sensitive intelligence—including information from the takedown of A.Q. Khan’s network—as levers and yardsticks to acquire or measure each Libyan admission.

Under constant pressure, the Libyans revealed mustard agent stocks, early pursuit of biological weapons-applicable technology, domestic missile development, a huge Scud missile stockpile, new long-range Scuds assembled with North Korean assistance, and the most sensitive secrets: Possession of uranium enrichment technology and nuclear weapons plans from Khan’s network. Their work was the basis for later efforts to verify Libya’s compliance with its promise to give up WMD. In 2004, the team’s reporting and insights served as the foundation for greatly expanded overt weapons investigations by the United States and international organizations. Their work led directly to the elimination of Libyan chemical munitions by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the removal of key nuclear and missile equipment and materials from the country by the U.S. State Department.

Building on decades of successful collection and analysis by officers from across the Intelligence Community, the CIA team led by Mr. Kappes was a principal driver in turning Libya from a rogue state into an increasingly responsible member of the international community.

A painting of CIA officers unloading supplies from a Mi-17 helicopter in Afghanistan at night

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, CIA was first on the ground in Afghanistan to target al-Qa’ida. This painting from our Intelligence Art Gallery depicts CIA officers unloading supplies from a Mi-17 helicopter in Afghanistan at night. The real helicopter now resides as a memorial at CIA Headquarters. The Afghanistan Team received the coveted CIA Trailblazer distinction in 2006.

2008 Trailblazers:

Tom Fosmire

Mr. Fosmire served in our Special Activities Division. The bravery and ingenuity he demonstrated while operating in Southeast Asia are legendary. On one reconnaissance mission, Tom was shot down behind enemy lines. Evading detection for four days, he led his four-man crew back to safety. In 1975, he was one of the last Americans out of Vietnam. He trained, mentored, and led scores of Agency officers. Tom’s colleagues say he was one of CIA’s finest operations officers ever. He was a covert action pioneer, a model of skill, courage, and sacrifice for today’s officers.

2009 Trailblazers:

Paul Kaschak

Mr. Kaschak, a visionary and a leader, is widely regarded as the single most influential engineer and program manager to advance the CIA’s tracking and locating capabilities. He began his Agency career as an analyst and went on to serve in the Directorate of Science and Technology for nearly four decades, during which time he was recognized as a leading technical expert in the Intelligence Community. Mr. Kaschak’s innovative solutions revolutionized technical mission support to officers in the field and have had a lasting impact on global operations.

John Guilsher

During his 52-year career, Mr. Guilsher set the standard for operating in a harsh CI environment and his denied-area tradecraft is still a model to operations officers today. A Directorate of Operations officer, Mr. Guilsher spent 21 years overseas, where he played a prominent role in the most significant Soviet-Russian cases since 1955. Fluent in Russian, Mr. Guilsher transcribed intercepted communications from the Berlin Tunnel operation in the 1950s and translated documents obtained from Oleg Penkovskiy in the 1960s. In the 1970s, he painstakingly determined that a telephone tap had been successfully implanted and spent months in a safehouse listening post, extracting important intelligence.

Perhaps his most significant and enduring contribution was his groundbreaking operational work on the streets of Moscow in the late 1970s, when he laid the foundation for the tradecraft that continues to be practiced today. During his tour from 1977 to 1980, he personally led the operation that established and exploited the opportunity offered by scientist Adolf Tolkachev, one of the CIA’s most valuable Soviet agents during the Cold War.

From the mid-1990s to 2007, Mr. Guilsher supported a variety of projects that provided U.S. policymakers with key insights into the Russian political decision-making process and advance word on changes in Russian policies of relevance to the U.S.

painting of man looking over a chair at a document

This painting, “Tolkachev: Quiet Courage,” is part of our Intelligence Art Gallery. It depicts Soviet scientist, Adolf Tolkachev, one of the CIA’s most valuable Soviet agents during the Cold War. John Guilsher, who was named a CIA Trailblazer in 2009, personally led the operation that established and exploited the opportunity offered by Tolkachev. Guilsher’s groundbreaking operational work on the streets of Moscow in the late 1970s laid the foundation for the tradecraft that continues to be practiced today.

2010 Trailblazers:

Jack Downing

A Harvard grad and Captain in the Marines, Mr. Downing came to the Agency in 1967. During his first assignment, he became fluent in Mandarin Chinese and quickly excelled in one of the world’s busiest espionage hubs. He was a natural ops officer and rose rapidly through the ranks, being appointed Deputy Chief of Station when he was only a GS-13. Sent to be Chief of Station in 1980, he succeeded in providing a vital window on one of the hardest of targets.

Mr. Downing returned as Station Chief in 1986, shortly after half that Station’s staff had been expelled. He rallied his officers with a new operational philosophy and the use of advanced technical methods that quickly put the Station back in business. After leading East Asia Division and volunteering for another tour as Station chief, Mr. Downing earned both a Distinguished Intelligence Medal and a well-deserved retirement, until returning in 1997 at George Tenet’s request to lead the Directorate of Operations.

Helene L. Boatner

Ms. Boatner came to the CIA in 1963 from a family with a long record of service to country. She became an economic analyst on Asian countries, and was instantly recognized as a gifted and prolific writer. Ms. Boatner was one of the first women to assume executive posts at an Agency that had been led entirely by men for its first three decades. Ms. Boatner was the first woman to head an office-level component of the Directorate of Intelligence (now Directorate of Analysis), the first to serve as CIA’s Comptroller, and in 1973, Richard Helms nominated her for the Federal Woman’s Award.

As the first Director of the Office of Near East and South Asian Analysis, she helped steer the DI away from the discipline-oriented offices of the 1950s and 60s toward the regional and functional offices it has today. She also was the first Director of the Office of Leadership Analysis, founding what would become a major analytic discipline. Ms. Boatner was among the first to push for direct relationships between DI offices and military commands, greater outreach to Intelligence Community and academic partners, desktop publishing of DI products, and electronic production of the PDB and National Intelligence Daily, all aspects of the analytic mission that continue today.

Helene is a Trailblazer because she was a creative, dynamic officer with the vision and drive to do important things before anyone else—male or female.

2011 Trailblazers:

Arthur “Mick” Donahue

Mr. Donahue, a Directorate of Science and Technology Officer, supported intelligence collection, special operations, paramilitary programs, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and counternarcotics operations by providing the inspiration and innovation behind many of the most important and noteworthy technical operations of the late Cold War period, most of which remain classified.

John McCone

Mr. McCone, the sixth Director of Central Intelligence, is widely regarded as one of the most effective in the CIA’s history. McCone oversaw the establishment of the Directorate of Science and Technology. He also imposed greater accountability over covert actions, refocused the CIA’s collection and analysis, instituted managerial changes, and preserved the Agency’s role in strategic reconnaissance at the dawn of the technological revolution in intelligence. Mr. McCone left the CIA with its reputation restored, its influence reestablished, its organization modernized, and its responsibilities and resources expanded.

2012 Trailblazers:

Walter Bedell Smith

General Smith organized the CIA into the directorate system that defines the Agency today. During his tenure as the fourth Director of Central Intelligence, he initiated the CIA’s tradition of providing daily intelligence reports to the president and fostered greater cooperation within the emerging U.S. Intelligence Community—particularly between the Agency and military intelligence components during the Korean War. General Smith was instrumental in alerting the National Security Council to the need for an entity focused on communications intelligence, influencing President Harry S. Truman’s decision in 1952 to create the National Security Agency.

Howard Gamertsfelder

Mr. Gamertsfelder was a leading pioneer in operational technology and tradecraft. During nearly six decades with the CIA—as an officer, consultant, and contractor— Mr. Gamertsfelder designed tools and equipment that led to breakthroughs in how CIA officers collect intelligence. Mr. Gamertsfelder is remembered best as a mentor, devoting much of his career to honing the skills of his colleagues and inspiring junior officers.

painting of two men at a radio dial with head phones on

“Message from Moscow,” a painting in our Intelligence Art Gallery, depicts the CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS – now the Open Source Center) during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Paul Borel, one of the original CIA Trailblazers, was Director of the FBIS, responsible for providing the first combined open source media collection in CIA.

2013 Trailblazers:

Jack Davis

Mr. Davis created a course for analysts and their managers called “Intelligence Successes and Failures,” to reflect on analytical tradecraft and the relationship of analysts and their analysis with the policymakers. He also managed a negotiation with Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government to establish a pioneering joint seminar in Cambridge on the relationship of intelligence to policy. Mr. Davis recorded analytical tradecraft experiences through a series of “DI Tradecraft Notes” published by the Kent School. He became one of the most prolific contributors ever to Studies in Intelligence. Mr. Davis established a digital network system that eventually evolved into blog capabilities common today.

Elizabeth Sudmeier

Ms. Sudmeier was a pioneer in breaking down gender barriers at the CIA. As a founding member of the Agency, Ms. Sudmeier, like many women at that time, began her career as a typist. Yet, despite the resistance of Agency senior managers and supervisors, Ms. Sudmeier did what few woman were able to do. She worked as a field operations officer, serving overseas in places like the Middle East and South Asia for almost nine years, and helped usher in a new era of woman’s equality at the Agency.

2014 Trailblazers:

Donald R. Cryer

Cryer, a 42-year veteran of the Agency was a tireless advocate who laid the groundwork for CIA’s diversity and inclusion programs. His concentration on building an inclusive, high-performing workforce through strategic planning, succession planning and success measurement—as well as his emphasis on removing obstacles and barriers that impede employee success—remains in effect today. (He has an award named after him)

An A-12 supersonic reconnaissance aircraft in flight

“Untouchable,” a painting in the CIA Intelligence Art Gallery, depicts the A-12 OXCART aircraft: a revolutionary aircraft that was able to fly at three times the speed of sound for more than 3,000 miles without having to be refueled. The legendary inventor and CIA Trailblazer, Richard Bissell, invented both the U-2 spy plane and it’s successor, the OXCART.

2017 Trailblazers:

Greg Vogle

Mr. Vogle, a career paramilitary officer, held senior executive positions in charge of global clandestine operations and helped lead joint programs and missions with partners in the Department of Defense and across the Intelligence Community. His outstanding actions over his career, particularly in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, better positioned CIA to meet the complex challenges of the future and to conduct operations in non-traditional and hostile environments around the world.

Mr. Vogle’s CIA citations include the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal (2016), the Director’s Award for Distinguished Service (2016), the Intelligence Star (2003), and the Distinguished Intelligence Cross (2002). He also earned interagency honors, including the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal (2016). Prior to joining CIA, Mr. Vogle served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1981-1986.

2022 Trailblazers:

Tracey Ballard

A founding member and longtime chair of the Agency Network of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Officers and Allies (ANGLE)—one of the largest and most active Agency resource groups—Tracey has been a driving force in helping the CIA become a more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming place to work. Her leadership and advocacy of the LGBT community have broken down barriers and opened up opportunities for her colleagues and future generations of CIA officers. Because of her courage, tenacity, and passion, the CIA is better able to attract, retain, and support a workforce that reflects the richness and variety of the great nation we serve.

Virginia S. (Sue) Bromley

A former Executive Director of CIA—the number three job at the Agency at the time—Sue personified the concepts of collaboration and integration that are the hallmarks of the CIA today. She championed the multi-INT approach to intelligence problems that we now take for granted, cultivated the targeting discipline, implemented initiatives to optimize the use of Agency resources, and developed corporate approaches that enhanced Agency operations at every level. Sue’s career embodies the idea of “One Agency, One Community” and paved the way for the type of whole-of-mission approaches that are critical in meeting today’s challenges.

Richard (Dick) Calder

A former Deputy Director for Administration—the equivalent of today’s Deputy Director of CIA for Support—Dick transformed how the Agency conducts its missions by establishing the Working Capital Fund (WCF). The WCF brought a business-based model to CIA’s support services, significantly increasing the speed, flexibility, and effectiveness of CIA operations. Dick’s vision and perseverance led to the creation of a global transportation supply chain capable of quickly pivoting and responding to crises across the globe. Because of him, the CIA is better equipped to meet both the known and unknown challenges of the future.

James (Jim) Garrison

The first Director of Logistics, Jim played a leading role in building many of the facilities that have served the CIA for decades. He oversaw construction of the Original Headquarters Building—which brought together CIA employees scattered across 40 buildings in the WMA. Jim brought this same passion and vision to developing future generations of logistics officers, inaugurating the first logistics training course and creating a career board to facilitate the recruitment, development, and advancement of CIA logisticians. 

Virginia Hall

The CIA’s first female paramilitary officer, Virginia drew from her extraordinary experiences running clandestine operations behind enemy lines for the OSS to help shape and lead CIA activities in the perilous early years of the Cold War. She used her deep expertise, exceptional tradecraft, and cultural awareness of Europe to lead some of the Agency’s most sensitive operations during a time of extreme uncertainty.  A quiet professional who preferred to stay in the shadows, Virginia turned down opportunities to be publicly recognized for her work, even by the President and the King of England, and passed on jobs that might have led to promotions to stay focused on covert action and paramilitary operations. She put country and mission first, and helped a relatively young CIA cement its role as our country’s first line of defense.

Ernest (Ernie) Mayerfeld Ernie made lasting and historically important contributions to the CIA as a member of the Office of General Counsel. He modernized CIA’s litigation practice and helped CIA adapt to the need for greater transparency regarding its intelligence activities, while successfully protecting its intelligence sources and methods from public disclosure. His list of accomplishments includes several foundational court decisions that continue to serve as the basis of CIA’s legal authorities, including the CIA’s ability to enforce its secrecy agreement, the CIA’s ability to absolutely protect the identities of its intelligence sources, and the CIA’s ability to protect its classified information in court by a “neither confirm nor deny” response that continues to be a key feature of Freedom of Information Act case law and the national security classification system. The leadership and legal acumen brought to bear by Ernie in support of CIA’s mission were instrumental in helping to ensure that justice, transparency, and national security work hand-in-hand at the CIA.