Despite 100-degree daytime desert temperatures, Team DSS (Diplomatic Security Service) nailed its first official race in the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay, April 7-10, 2022. The relay that began in Baker, California, and ended in Las Vegas, Nevada, was part of a large-scale DS diversity and recruitment and community outreach initiative.
A team of 20 DSS runners and 47 support staff participated in the 120-mile, 20 stage relay race. The team finished in the top 50% among all teams and in the top 50% in the mixed law enforcement category after completing the course in approximately 18 hours, 30 minutes.
Team DSS literally was the face of diversity, as the first Hispanic American DSS Director Carlos Matus led the team by participating in Stage 2 of the relay. Individual DSS personnel have participated in the relay race in years past, including from the Los Angeles Field Office, but this was the first DSS official team to run in the race.
“The race was such a large group effort, and it was particularly important because it was a diversity and recruitment event—a high priority of DSS and the State Department as a whole,” said Matus.
Special Agent Maria Amaya kicked it into high gear in Stage 9 and had a great time crossing the California-Nevada border as the sun set behind the Sierra Nevada mountains. Amaya, a special agent with an impressive 11-year DSS career, is a competitive ultramarathon runner who has completed 70 running races and triathlons, and 45 ultramarathons, including three 100-mile races. Amaya promotes running and fitness wherever she travels around the world, and she has some sage advice for anyone thinking about hitting the pavement.
“It’s not about running hard or fast or being the best; it’s about getting out there with other like-minded folks, exercising, and having fun,” said Amaya.
Diplomatic Security Chief of Staff and Las Vegas native Lawrence W.K. Casselle crossed the finish line at 5:30 a.m. in Las Vegas for Team DSS. Since leaving Las Vegas as a young boy, Casselle has served his country as a U.S. Army infantry officer, as director for counterterrorism at the White House, and currently is serving as DS chief of staff. Casselle joined DSS as a special agent in 2003 and has worked in more than 70 countries, served on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s protective detail, managed Western Hemisphere matters as branch chief for overseas protective operations, and served as the deputy director for counterintelligence at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
Casselle said he was excited to be running home to Las Vegas in the 20th and final leg of the race. While in town, Casselle sat down with the Las Vegas Review Journal to tell his story. It was fitting because he spent his middle-school nights folding and preparing the Las Vegas Review Journal and delivering it during the early morning hours with his mom for extra money before school. Check out the profile here.
“It’s really full circle and just a distinct honor to be able to come back to my hometown, finish up this important race, and participate in this important week for our diversity recruiting efforts here in Las Vegas,” Casselle told the Review Journal.
The Baker to Vegas Relay was more than a great challenge, it served as an opportunity to attract new talent to DSS, especially women and minority candidates for the special agent, diplomatic courier, security engineering officer, and security technical specialist positions. The DSS Recruitment Unit and diversity and inclusion officer held several events including an open discussion at the LGBTQ Center of Southern Nevada. Also held was a career day hosted by 100 Black Men of Las Vegas and Nevada Partners, and a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People event hosted by the Community College of Southern Nevada. The DSS recruitment team and race participants also staffed a booth to recruit diverse law enforcement talent at the relay finish line venue.
Organizers of Team DSS said they were proud to participate in the Baker to Vegas Relay and hope to compete again next year.
Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Gentry Smith congratulated Team DSS for completing the 120-mile relay and thanked them for their diversity and recruitment efforts in the Las Vegas area.
“You not only protect our people, property, and information with dedication, integrity, and honor, you also show that same level of enthusiasm in everything you do. We are proud to serve with you,” said Smith.