When Karstin "Kris" Dutch Pfister '77 signed up
for a Peace Corps assignment in Afghanistan, she, like most Americans
at that time, knew little about the Asian country.
"I went to the Peace Corps office and they let me look through
a book of openings," she says. "When I came across a great-
sounding teaching opportunity I had to ask: 'Where's Afghanistan?'
They got out a map and showed me."
Americans' knowledge of Afghanistan has increased significantly
in recent months. Few, though, have more intimate familiarity than
Pfister, who was one of the last Americans to leave when the Peace
Corps pulled out following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. She
taught at the National Meteorological Institute and at Kabul University's
Faculty of Medicine and traveled extensively throughout Afghanistan.
She has worked for the Department of Defense since then and on
Sept. 11 her Afghan experience came full circle. As director of
the Personal Services Branch at the U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters
Battalion in Washington, D.C., Pfister set up a family crisis center
and worked around-the-clock to assist families following the attack
on the Pentagon.
"That was such a horrible experience," she says. "My
office window overlooks the Pentagon and I could see the disaster
day in and day out. Everyday I was working with victims' families
and, at the same time, I was thinking about the people of Afghanistan
and the fact that they haven't known peace for more than 20 years."
Pfister, who majored in psychology and Spanish and holds a graduate
degree in counseling, now serves on a Department of Defense committee
to develop procedures for future crises. Her staff continues its
mission of providing quality of life programs for Marine families.
Pfister's husband, Bill, a former Marine, works for the International
Monetary Fund. They have two daughters, ages 10 and 14, and live
in Manassas, Va.