By Kit-Bacon Gressitt
Mission Valley resident shares life working for DSS
Glance at Mission Valley resident Cody Perron and he might strike you as a fit, young professional, with a well-trimmed beard and hairline threatening to recede — a mild-mannered man with a pleasant Louisiana drawl. And you’d be wrong. This man is from Cajun Country.
“When it comes to rough and tumble, we’re outdoorsmen and fighters, and we like challenges,” Perron said during a recent interview. “That’s the mentality we have down there.”
That is also the mentality Perron carried with him when he left Louisiana to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1998.
“My thought was that the Marine Corps was the best and the toughest,” he said, “and I wanted to be the best and the toughest, so that’s why I joined.”
However, after serving on protection duty at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, Perron wanted a different challenge than those offered by the Marine Corps.
“It was a great assignment. It kind of catapulted me to the [U.S.] State Department and what I wanted to study — with a focus on Russia and Central Asia.”
Perron left the Corps after about five years, earned a global affairs degree at George Mason University, and in 2008 became a special agent with the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), the U.S. State Department’s little-known security and law enforcement branch.
“It’s on the frontlines,” Perron explained, “but nobody knows what we do. About one third of DSS agents are former military. It’s federal law enforcement, but also diplomatic. It’s a little bit of everything.”
Although Perron resigned from DSS late last year, the experience remains close at hand. His responsibilities with DSS included both protection — think the likes of former Secretary of State John Kerry and Britain’s Prince Andrew — and personnel recovery.
Perron described that latter: “We’re utilizing any and all assets to recover American personnel in any country … We find a way to access them and recover them. My role was more of a facilitator. I developed all the plans. I was investigative and logistics. I combined the assets I had with intelligence and defense organizations, and handed that higher up so they could take action.”
At DSS, Perron thrived on “the diversity and the versatility of the job,” so much so, that after resigning, he wrote and published a book about it, released in May, “Agents Unknown: True Stories of Life as a Special Agent in the Diplomatic Security Service.”
While Perron spent a lot of time protecting U.S. and foreign dignitaries in far-flung locales, one of his most compelling stories is about recovery, set on the border of Iraq and Syria. Two former ISIS hostages, Yazidi girls, had escaped and made it to a United Nations refugee camp. At the same time, U.S. forces had been attempting to find and rescue U.S. humanitarian aid worker Kayla Mueller, who had been abducted in Syria. Perron’s task was to glean as much information from the girls as possible, with the hope of aiding in Mueller’s recovery.
“What an experience.” Perron paused for a moment. “I interviewed these two girls. It was difficult. They were 15 or 16 and they’d been through brutality, but they were resilient. Their parents were executed. One girl was separated from her sister. She had been sold four times —into sex slavery. It was heartbreaking, but it was important that we got that information.”
Such missions don’t leave much room for family, logistically or emotionally.
“I chose to remain single throughout that time and that made life a lot easier,” Perron said. “I’d had a lot of freedom, but it could get lonely, and I was required to leave again. So, I left the department to start a family — with a young lady from San Diego and her soon-to-be 5-year-old.
“I miss it completely,” Perron continued, “and I had a blast doing it. But there’s an end to everything and this is it. To be honest, I missed out on being a dad and now I get to be a dad.”
So Perron is now off on his next challenges, marriage in November, parenting, and promoting his book, with the same sense of discipline he learned in the Corps or perhaps earlier:
“My mom got me a journal years ago and she said I could write a book someday. And when mom says something, you do it.”
For more information about “Agents Unknown,” visit agentsunknown.biz.
—Kit-Bacon Gressitt is a San Diego freelance writer. She is also publisher of ExcuseMeImWriting.com and WritersResist.com. She is host of Fallbrook Library’s monthly Writers Read author series and open mic and teaches Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies in the Cal State system. Reach her at email@example.com.