Kabul bound: Continental exec takes leave of absence

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HOUSTON -- David Grizzle has it good at Continental. Hes worked there for nearly 20 years, rising to his current job as senior vice president for marketing strategy and corporate development. He enjoys his work and his colleagues.

And now hes taking a sabbatical -- to go to Afghanistan.

Grizzle volunteered to help the U.S. government work on the countrys reconstruction. He expects to leave in mid-September for Kabul and could remain there until the end of 2005.

Grizzle, 50, will leave behind not only a high-paying job but also his wife and three sons, ages 23, 19 and 14. None will accompany him, although Grizzle wouldnt be surprised if his adventurous wife, who is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro this month with their middle son, comes to visit.

In a way, however, the decision was not difficult. Grizzle made it based on his principles, religious beliefs and desire to serve. He said the reaction from most people who know him has been, That sounds like you.

I firmly believe were not put on this earth in order to accumulate the most toys, Grizzle said. Were put here to expend ourselves in service to others.

As for safety, Grizzle insisted hes not worried. There are a lot of things Im more afraid of than dying. Insignificant living probably tops the list of things Im afraid of.

Grizzle said his family has been supportive. In fact, a family connection is the reason he was asked to go. His eldest sons best friend from college works in the Defense Department office, searching for civilians willing to provide expertise for war-zone reconstruction. His sons friend recommended Grizzle, and the Pentagon called in early June.

Grizzle said he was prepared to give up his job entirely, but Continental offered him the sabbatical, with an assurance hed have a job as a senior vice president when he returns.

In Kabul, Grizzle will advise Afghan ministries and commercial organizations -- mostly government-owned -- on air and surface transportation, telecommunications, power, water and media. His job wont be easy, especially with the influence of warlords in parts of the country. But Grizzle said he hopes his years spent working on the SkyTeam airline alliance will help.

I dont want to draw an analogy of dealing with warlords and SkyTeam members, Grizzle said with a chuckle. But there is a common element in being able to put together commercial transactions in cross-cultural situations and being sensitive to cross-cultural differences.

To contact reporter Andrew Compart, send e-mail to [email protected].

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