By the end of 1979, Mengistu Haile-Mariam, “the Chairman,” was being projected through the official media in a strong authoritarian light. He derived from his earlier years an exceptional acquaintance with the regional diversity of Ethiopia. Born in an Oromo area between 1940 and 1942, of mixed Amhara and shankala (a caste of blacks who were traditionally slaves) origin, he traveled as a child to different areas while his father was soldiering and then serving as a houseguard. Mengistu gained access to the Holeta military academy, where he was trained as an ordnance officer. He twice visited the United States for training purposes. There is no public evidence of his radicalism prior to the constitution of the Derg in 1974.