September 2019 Chairman’s Message

Welcome back!

At least, welcome back to those who’ve been away. I know many of us have been here through another Saudi summer doing the never-ending work of advancing our companies’ business strategies. So to all,  welcome back to the American Business Group of Riyadh’s 2019-2020 season.

Before I continue, it is with great sadness that I have to tell you that our dear friend and decades-long stalwart of ABGR, Tom Merkel, passed away suddenly last month on a trip to the US. Our hearts go out to his widow Barb, their daughters Katlyn and Elyse, and son Tommy. Tom and Barb raised their family in Riyadh, being some of the longest expat residents here after 37 years in the kingdom. Everyone who met Tom for even a few minutes felt their load lightened by his fun presence and perhaps a couple of his corny jokes. He was the bedrock of so many things in the American community of Riyadh, not just of ABGR but also of the American International School and the larger expat golfing scene. I was just looking at the ABGR Board of Directors organization chart and was struck by the number of things he was doing for us. To say he will be missed is an extreme understatement. Tom cannot be replaced, either in his deeds or his place in our souls. It was a pleasure and an honor to know him. Rest In Peace, Tom.

I should now introduce myself as the new chairman of the ABGR. I have been privileged to serve the ABGR for several years as the facilitator of the Defense and Security Committee, and am now honored to be given the opportunity to serve as chairman. I’m strengthened in the knowledge that our previous chairman, Chris Johnson, will continue to serve on the board. His are big shoes to fill and I will lean on him for his counsel to ensure the many successes of his tenure continue to thrive and grow. .

For those who aren’t yet sure who I am, I’m looking forward to meeting you in person at a future event. In advance of that, here is a short biography:

Kevin Darnell is director of Business Development and Operations for Raytheon Saudi Arabia (RTN SA) and is based in Riyadh. Kevin joined Raytheon in 2012 as the General Manager of Raytheon Technical Services Middle East Limited (RTSME) and transitioned to international sales in 2014. Kevin retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2009 at the rank of colonel and came to Riyadh to set up the first war college for the Saudi Arabian armed forces. From 2009 to 2012, he graduated 120 senior officers from all Saudi military services. He taught all subjects in a 10-month graduate school program based on the U.S. Army War College curriculum: strategic thinking and leadership, military history and theory, national security policy, joint military operations, and defense resource management. Kevin’s first military deployment to Saudi Arabia was in 1981 as an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) navigator. From 1981-1985, he deployed seven times to the kingdom, conducting missions to protect critical infrastructure and ensure air sovereignty during the Iran-Iraq War. Kevin later served as the United States Air Attaché at the American Embassy in Riyadh from 2003-2005. During this challenging time for the security of the kingdom, he provided essential support to Saudi military and investigative agencies. Kevin is a Master Navigator with over 3,700 flight hours in the E-3A/B/C and T-43A aircraft. His assignments took him across the U.S. and on multiple worldwide deployments, including resident postings in Japan, Panama, and Saudi Arabia. Kevin holds three Master’s degrees and is a distinguished graduate of the University of Maine and U.S. Naval War College. His military awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Bronze Star, and Air Medal (multiple awards).

The board had its first meeting of the season on September 4th and I can tell you that we have great plans in store. We are lining up an impressive list of guest speakers and special events, which you will hear more about later. We are also planning to implement some changes intended to provide greater service to our members. We’ll inform you as we get closer to rolling these out so you’ll know what to expect. Let me say that we are all excited by the work ahead to add value to the American business community both professionally and socially.

On September 30th ,we are planning an event at the Marriott DQ to ‘Meet your Embassy’ and to honor and introduce our new U.S. Ambassador General John Abizaid to our general membership.

Please feel welcome to contact me or our Operations Manager, Shohreh Shadmand, anytime with questions or suggestions for improvement. We are ultimately YOUR business group, and I am proud to serve you. 

Kevin Darnell

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About the Author

Kevin Darnell

Kevin Darnell is director of Business Development and Operations for Raytheon Saudi Arabia (RTN SA) and is based in Riyadh. +966-11-478-2554