Two men who grew up in northeast Iowa have become the first brothers to serve at the same time as U-S Ambassadors. Fifty-six-year-old Larry Dinger is U-S Ambassador to Micronesia and 50-year-old John Dinger is the U-S Ambassador to Mongolia. John says they both feel the represent Iowa as much as the United States, and are proud of their roots.The brothers grew up in Riceville, where their 93-year-old mother still lives, and it was John, the younger brother, who first entered the Foreign Service. John Dinger graduated from Riceville High School in 1970. In 1974, he graduated from the University of Northern Iowa, which he calls “the Harvard of the northeast Iowa.”Dinger’s faculty advisor urged him to consider the Foreign Service as a career, but Dinger had never heard of it before. Nevertheless, he took the required test, passed it and his first assignment was at the U-S Embassy in London. Dinger says he likes the job because it’s been a life time learning experience.Dinger has moved just about once every two years — with stops in Brazil, South Africa, several posts in Japan as well as a few stints at the U-S State Department. As Ambassador, he is now the President’s personal representative in Mongolia.Mongolia’s a fledgling democracy, and Dinger is overseeing programs which seek to promote a free market economy.Mongolia’s a semi-arid place which Dinger says looks a bit like Utah, but without any roads. Up to half the population is still nomads who herd camels, goats and other livestock.Mongolia has only two neighbors, China and Russia, but Dinger says Mongolians often refer to the United States as their third neighbor and look to us to help their 10-year-old democracy make the transition from communism. John Dinger spoke with me by phone from his office in the U-S Embassy in Mongolia, where another Iowa native — Master Sergeant Jeff Roberts of Keokuk — now works. Roberts became the Embassy’s operations coordinator a couple of weeks ago. Dinger plans to return to Iowa in October to visit his sister in Wisconsin as well as his mother and other high school friends who live in Riceville, which is on the Howard/Mitchell County border. He still subscribes to the Riceville Recorder, his hometown newspaper. Dinger’s 1957 kindergarten diploma hangs on his office wall beside the certificate which named him Ambassador to Mongolia two years ago.
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