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On The Ground In Afghanistan

Mar 17, 2009
by Liz Daube, '05

Alumnus Greg Teisan, ’88, returns from military duty in Kabul

In the civilian world, Greg Teisan works as a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company. But in Afghanistan, he held responsibilities that ranged from organizing a bazaar for local merchants to coordinating polio and tuberculosis vaccinations for thousands of people.

During his year as a major in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps, the ’88 Flagler alumnus spent most of his time arranging training, supplies and other logistics for medical missions and emergency health care. Teisan had been a member of the National Guard for nearly 20 years, living in South Carolina with his wife and two children, when he was asked to deploy to Afghanistan.

Audio Slideshow: Alumnus Greg Teisan Narrates His Year in Afghanistan

“We planned it and all just kind of talked each other into it,” Teisan said, adding that several longtime friends deployed with him. “There was an excitement … and if I didn’t volunteer, I was probably going to be going anyway.”

While Teisan had some fears for his safety in Afghanistan, he quickly adjusted to the dangerous situations he encountered. He was most vulnerable to insurgent attack when on the move.

“It was really a hassle,” he said. “We had gunners on top [of the truck] and we had call signs … we really tried to portray a force, a real intimidating force, to avoid any problems.”

Al Qaeda and Taliban militants have begun using more suicide bombers to attack U.S. troops. Through luck and caution, though, Teisan steered clear of these attacks. In fact, he returned home in May 2008 having suffered just one injury: a broken thumb, acquired during a particularly competitive game of volleyball.

Teisan said he felt fortunate that his home overseas, Camp Alamo – dubbed “the most dangerous place in the world” by British newspaper The Sun – was hit by only two mortar attacks during his stay. Camp Alamo is located just inside the walls of the Kabul Military Training Center where, at any given time, the U.S. Army National Guard is attempting to train about 8,000 new Afghan recruits.

But it’s not an easy task. Local fear of reprisal from militants is strong, he said. His interpreter carried Western clothing with him and changed only when he was inside the training center gate.

“If the Taliban or the insurgents realized they were organizing the government of Afghanistan, supporting the United States Army … they became targets,” he said. “We have as many people leaving [the Afghan army] now as we have going in.”

Now home, Teisan juggles work in Charleston with long weekends in St. Augustine, where his wife relocated to be closer to family while he was overseas. His lasting impression of Afghanistan is that of “desperate people that needed help.”

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