News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 21, 2012

Big assignment ‘comes with the job’

ISU’s Chris Pfaff readies for third military deployment since 2001

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Chris Pfaff, a business development professional at Indiana State University and former president of Downtown Terre Haute Inc., is about to take on yet another big assignment – in uniform.

Pfaff is a 26-year veteran of U.S. military service and a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. He is now preparing to ship out on his third lengthy tour of duty since the terrorist attacks of Nov. 11, 2001.

“It comes with the job,” Pfaff said Thursday during a pre-deployment send off at ISU.

Pfaff, 45, whose civilian job is to direct the ISU Center for Business Support and Economic Innovation, will be leaving soon for Kuwait where he will head up the Theater Gateway, which coordinates civilian and military movement into and out of Iraq, Afghanistan and nearby areas. The Kuwait gateway managed the movement of more than 700,000 passengers in 2008, according to a U.S. Defense Department publication.

Pfaff said his unit, the 138th Theater Gateway Personnel Accountability Team, based in Indianapolis, is one of just a few such units in the entire U.S. military.

“It’s a very unique job that we do,” he said.

As a deployed soldier in 2008 and 2009, Pfaff learned first-hand what it is like to be a “customer” traveling through the Kuwait Theater Gateway. He traveled through it on his way to and from northern Afghanistan, where he served for nine months as part of a 16-member team training Afghan soldiers and police.

Because he knows what it’s like to be one of the thousands of military and civilian personnel that travel through the gateway each day, Pfaff said he believes that will help him in his latest mission. He knows the frustrations troops may experience with long waits to pass through the gateway, he said.

In addition to his 2008/2009 deployment to Afghanistan, Pfaff also served for a year as head of public affairs at Camp Atterbury in south central Indiana just before the war in Iraq began.

Pfaff, whose military career includes eight years of active duty service, said he expects to return from his latest deployment before Thanksgiving of next year. He also said he believes his unit will be fully prepared for their mission when they arrive in Kuwait.

“It’s an important job,” he said.

Pfaff, whose wife, Tonya, will remain in Terre Haute with the couple’s four children, said he is sometimes discouraged when it seems many Americans appear unaware the country remains involved in an armed conflict overseas.

“It can be discouraging,” he said. “Folks, there is a war still going on.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or