Veteran’s military service led to CIA career

HUBBARD — A Hubbard veteran’s military experience in the U.S. Army led to a long career with the Central Intelligence Agency.

John Raica, 83, of Hubbard, said he enlisted in the Army after attending Gannon University in Erie, Pa., with plans to become a teacher.

He said he is glad he never did become a teacher since his military experience and training led to a career with the CIA.

“In 1959, I went into the Army and was lucky to get into Army intelligence and went to school for photo interpretation. After that training, I was assigned to the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Holabird in Baltimore, Maryland,” he said.

Raica said he enlisted in the Army because he was close to being drafted, and he said he hoped to use his military experience to advance his career.

“Because of the Army and the two-and-a-half years photo interpretation experience I gained led me to my career with the Central Intelligence Agency. I got out of the Army in May 1962 and the agency snapped me up at that time,” he said.

He said when he was in the Army, U-2 spy planes flew over the coast of China, and he gained experience with analyzing and interpreting what was in the photos right before the Cuban Missile Crisis began in 1962.

“What a time to work for the agency. I used my skills from the Army. It was wonderful being in the Army for what it helped me get. I had learned to look at photos of military installations and identifying new facilities such as air fields and naval facilities,” Raica said of his 30-year career with the CIA, which included being a supervisor.

He said at age 23, the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 was the biggest event he faced during his career.

Raica said in the Army, everyone had a secondary duty, and he was assigned to a burial squad.

“I used to take a squad of eight out to a military cemetery in Baltimore, and we were responsible for providing the families at the funeral of the soldiers with a flag and having a firing squad there. We did this once or twice a month,” Raica said.

He said the technology changed the most during his 30 years with the CIA.

“Since I retired, I can only imagine the technology they have now. When I was there, the Middle East was always a place where there were issues. We went from crisis to crisis with the Middle East for four to five years, North Korea, and Soviet Union with the missile problem. You learned to work with the world and the various differences. It was amazing what you could see with photography,” Raica said.

Depending on the crisis, Raica looked at satellite photos for movement, armor, troops, equipment and facilities with launch sites. Information he found often went to higher ranking military officials and even the president for his daily briefings.

Today, Raica shares his military and career experience as part of a speaker’s series at the Hubbard Public Library. He gives a presentation on the Cuban Missile Crisis to veteran and retirement groups.

He is also active with Hubbard American Legion Post No. 51 as commander and has been with the group for 30 years.

Raica said he will always remember his Army experience and his career with the CIA.

“If it wasn’t for the Army, I might have had a career in teaching,” he said.



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