In June 1969, just as I turned 27, I was selected to join a dozen other Army counterintelligence agents at a special school conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of Training. The focus of the two-week course was a survey of worldwide communist party doctrine and organization. Being designed for counterintelligence agents, the Survey Course Syllabus explored both open and underground tactics used to expand communist power and influence. I had been a political science major in college, concentrating on international relations in the 20th century, so some of the curriculum was more entry level than not from my point of view. The most interesting of the topics covered for me was the examination of Soviet and Chinese intelligence agency organization and tactics.

As was later true for the Safeguard Anti-Ballistic Missile System Security Group I later jointed, activity took place in an Arlington, Virginia office building. Now long gone, the building then was known colloquially as The Blue U for its unusual color and shape.

I found that my first day of school at The Blue U was a lot like my first day trying to find the 902nd MI Group headquarters. I had general directions to get there, but no idea of what I’d find when I actually set foot in the place. The CIA training activity was under what was called “light cover” inside the Blue U. It seemed from the lobby directory that the building housed a variety of routine, unclassified defense department activities. There were Army and other service functions listed on the various floors, but nowhere did I see the CIA school listed. That’s because it was operating under an innocuous pseudonym such as “Joint Military Operations Planning Office.”

I got in the elevator with a handful of others dressed in both uniforms and civilian clothes and pushed the button for a top floor. At each floor the elevator stopped, and people got off as normal. However, when we got to my floor, those left on the elevator with me immediately pulled out previously hidden identification cards. The result was that when the elevator door next opened, and an armed guard immediately confronted us, everyone else already had their ID out. They were the regulars and I was obviously the newbie.

The office had lots of closed doors on both sides of narrow corridors. None of the doors had names or any indication of what functions lay within, so it was more than a little spooky for me.

It turns out another member of my extended family spent time in The Blue U. Years later, I was visiting my cousin John Bowe and his wife Kathie at their summer home in Cape Porpoise, Maine. Kathie Bowe’s brother Allan joined us for dinner one day, and before long we found out we had both done time at The Blue U. While I was a student, he had been a teacher in the building and had been employed by you know who.

Site of CIA School in The Blue U

Bill Bowe