Meet Brat Liaison Joe CondrillPosted: November 3, 2012
Joe Condrill has been called a lot of names.
But he never thought he would pick up the nickname, ‘Bratman’ and be recognized as a leader among millions of military and overseas dependents, affectionately known as ‘Brats.’
As the son of a career Army officer, Joe would see 21 homes in 19 years. He attended 12 schools in 12 years including two elementary schools in Germany and France and three high schools in Hawaii, Thailand and Iran, where he graduated from the Tehran American School in 1973.
Returning to the U.S. for college in San Francisco and San Antonio, Joe experienced what many Military or Overseas ‘Brats’ felt: out of place. So when he heard that some from his Tehran American School were planning a reunion in Houston in 1982, Joe jumped at the opportunity and he went on to create the Tehran American School Association. He also reconnected with some classmates of his from the International School of Bangkok, which is now known as the ISB Network. Yet another door would open for Joe.
“One day in the Fall of 1985, I got a letter (in the days they use to send letters) from someone named David Thatcher, who attended one of the schools I attended, in Orleans, France. Dave was starting something called, the Overseas Schools Combined Alumni Registry or OSCAR. He had a vision of entering in any person who had gone to an overseas school. I loved the idea and responded to him. But soon he became overwhelmed with the response and his job wouldn’t permit him to pursue it further.”
OK…what to do now with that kind of interest?
“Some of the contacts on Dave’s list and I corresponded. They shared their unique stories about climbing Mount Fujiyama in Japan, cruising down the Rhine River on Hitler’s barge, and having their proms in the Eiffel Tower. As a writer and publicist I said, “Wow! Maybe the military trade press will be interested in our stories.” As it turned out they weren’t.”
So this prompted Joe to send out a memo to the dozen or so contacts of other overseas schools. It was dated April 8, 1986 — now the anniversary date of the founding of the OVERSEAS BRATS organization. Joe continued sharing.
“All I shared was they (the military trade press) weren’t interested in our stories, and maybe we should start our own publication. Within three or four months I received about 150 calls or letters asking to be put on that mailing list.” Joe laughed.
“THEN the Life & Times section of the Army Times Publishing Company contacted me. They heard about this new organization I was developing called OVERSEAS BRATS. They wanted to do a story about it. That article appeared in a September 1986 edition of the ARMY, NAVY, MARINE, COAST GUARD and AIR FORCE TIMES.”
Over 300 ‘Brats’ responded. They wanted to join and get the publication and become part of an organization of Brats. Among those who responded was a woman who had graduated from Karlsruhe (Germany) American High School in 1979 and attended the University of Maryland-Munich Campus between 1979 and 1981: Circe Olson Woessner!
As with any new organization, there were exciting things happening. But there was a personal cost, too.
“Membership expanded to 1,000 by 1988. The publication expanded into three – 20+ pages published annually. We were starting host regional get-together’s and an annual national convention. With my other full-time job and a romance (that lead to an engagement), I was burning the candle from three ends. While OVERSEAS BRATS would continue to thrive, I lost the relationship with a wonderful, loving ‘Brat’ who had gone to school in Italy and Germany.”
In October 1990 there was enough financial support to allow Joe to leave his job of 11 years as an advertising services/meeting planner for a resilient floor covering company to devote to OVERSEAS BRATS.
Over the years, thousands of ‘Brats’ have been reconnected through OVERSEAS BRATS. Several hundred alumni groups or reunions found help, too.
As Brat liaison, Joe will be providing updates on ‘Brat’ reunions and OVERSEAS BRATS functions, writing for our Quarterly, and he will play an instrumental role in helping the Military Family Museum create an annual national convention.