CHICAGO — Anne Smedinghoff had a quiet ambition and displayed a love of global affairs from an early age, joining the U.S. Foreign Service straight out of college and volunteering for missions in perilous locations worldwide.
So when the 25-year-old suburban Chicago woman was killed in a Taliban attack on Saturday in southern Afghanistan — the first American diplomat to die on the job since last year's attack in Benghazi, Libya — her family took solace in the fact that she died doing something she loved.
"It was a great adventure for her … She loved it," her father, Tom Smedinghoff, told the Associated Press on Sunday. "She was tailor-made for this job."
Anne Smedinghoff grew up in River Forest — an upscale suburb about 10 miles west of Chicago — the daughter of a lawyer and the second of four children. She attended the highly selective Fenwick High School, followed by Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in international studies and became a key organizer of the university's annual Foreign Affairs Symposium in 2008. The event draws high-profile speakers from around the world.
Her first assignment for the Foreign Service was in Caracas, Venezuela, and she volunteered for the Afghanistan assignment after that. Her father said family members would tease her about signing up for a less dangerous location, maybe London or Paris.
"She said, 'What would I do in London or Paris? It would be so boring,' " her father recalled. In her free time, she would travel as much as possible, her father said.
Smedinghoff was an up-and-coming employee of the State Department who garnered praise from the highest ranks. She was to finish her Afghanistan assignment as a press officer in July. Already fluent in Spanish, she was gearing up to learn Arabic, first for a year in the United States and then in Cairo, before a two-year assignment in Algeria.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday at a news conference in Turkey that Smedinghoff was "vivacious, smart" and "capable." Smedinghoff had assisted Kerry when he visited Afghanistan two weeks ago.
Kerry also described Smedinghoff as "a selfless, idealistic woman who woke up yesterday morning and set out to bring textbooks to schoolchildren, to bring them knowledge."
Her father said they knew the assignments were dangerous, though she spent most of her time at the U.S. Embassy compound in Kabul. Trips outside were in heavily armored convoys — as was Saturday's trip that killed five Americans, including Smedinghoff. The U.S. Department of Defense did not release the names of the others who died: three soldiers and one employee.