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Diplomacy in Action

Santa Barbara Resident Working to Rebuild Iraq

December 24, 2007


Bureau of Public Affairs
Office of Public Liaison

Kevin Crisp
Santa Barbara, California

By Jeremy Foster, News-Press Staff Writer

[Reprinted with Permission of Santa Barbara Daily Sound granted August 19, 2008]

Longtime city resident Kevin Crisp is a deputy team leader for a provincial reconstruction team in Iraq


SANTA BARBARA: For many Americans, the prospect of stability in Iraq is dismal. A recent CBS poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe the U.S. effort to bring stability and order to Iraq is going somewhat "badly" or "very badly."

Kevin Crisp, a 25-year Santa Barbara resident, is among those with a more optimistic point of view. Not only does he say stability in Iraq is possible, Mr. Crisp, 47, has spent the past eight months in Iraq trying to achieve it.

He's deputy team leader for a provincial reconstruction team overseeing the province of al-Muthanna. His and 24 other such teams were created by the State Department to help provinces in Iraq become self-sustaining by offering guidance on economic and infrastructure development, security and governance.

"The embassy interacts with the central government in Baghdad," Mr. Crisp said during an interview on Friday at the News-Press office. "We're out in the provinces working with the lower-level governments in Iraq."

Mr. Crisp's career with the State Department was spurred by a reassessment of what he wanted to accomplish in life.

In 2001 Mr. Crisp left a 16-year career in commercial fishing to enroll at UCSB, where he later earned a degree in global studies.

In February 2003 he was hired to work for the State Department after passing rigorous written and oral exams.

"I wanted to get into something that was more stimulating and more mentally challenging," he said of his career change. "I wanted something that would have a public service component, and, in my mind, the State Department has that."

Beyond the appeal of public service, Mr. Crisp was enticed by the prospect of living overseas, learning new languages and acquiring management experience.

His earlier service with the State Department included running a warehouse for an embassy in Belgrade, Serbia, and working as a consular for visa applicants in Mexico City. In April of this year, he volunteered to end his duty in Mexico City early to transfer to Iraq.

"I knew about the need there, and I had an interest in seeing what was going on there," he said.

Mr. Crisp discussed his desire to be reassigned to Iraq with his wife and children weeks before leaving.

"At first everybody was scared because all you hear about from Iraq is of people dying," he said. "People were concerned. It was a natural reaction. But they knew it was for a good cause, and they ultimately supported me."

Mr. Crisp's reconstruction team oversees the province of al-Muthanna. About the size of West Virginia, the province is home to about 550,000 people, 97 percent of whom are Shiite Muslim. The small Sunni and Christian populations in al-Muthanna leave little religious differences for sectarian strife, he said.

Still, al-Muthanna is not strife free. Every week or so, Mr. Crisp said, insurgents from miles away fire mortars at the Tallil Air Base where he and his eight-member team reside. Additionally, his team has to plan days in advance and be accompanied by a security convoy before they venture out of the base to particular areas -- which typically happens three to five days a week -- because of the constant threat of ambush.

Released on December 24, 2007

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