Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

From Admiral Farragut to Afghanistan

Alex Deseta always liked his school's regimen and rigor.

At Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg, he flourished in football, track and sailing. He joined his father, also a Farragut graduate, in achieving the academy's highest rank, battalion commander.

After graduation? Joining the military felt natural.

"As a little kid you kind of want to rebel and do all that," said Deseta. "But actually, I felt quite fond of the military. It showed a lot of potential, the ability to see the world, and really had endless possibility."

He went to college at the Citadel. He went through intense training and infantry school.

Now 24, he's Army 1st Lt. Alex Deseta, deployed to Afghanistan's Nuristan province with the Army, Navy and Air Force. He trains local police. He oversees dozens of soldiers who protect contract workers rebuilding the region's roads, footpaths, bridges, water tanks, schools, clinics and government buildings.

Deseta called the St. Petersburg Times from Nuristan recently to talk about life overseas.

That sounds like a high-pressure job.

Of course, the danger and stuff will flash in your face. Now being an officer having soldiers that look up to me, they look into my eyes and say, "Okay, lieutenant, are you going to be leading us today?" I don't want to say it's a pressure, because it's an awesome satisfaction to lead some of the world's best soldiers.

How did it feel to learn you'd be shipping to Afghanistan?

I was kind of excited, just that I'd be able to put all the training that I've had into real world use. It was great coming over here with a joint unit with the Air Force and Navy guys. We're all kind of formed into one unit and we're still getting to know each other. For day-to-day operations, I'm leading around a 30-man element, and we'll go outside the wire and provide security for engineers, civil affairs people, to let them do their mission. I call them the spark-makers of this economy. We're just keeping them safe.

What is Nuristan like?

It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to. You have so many mountains here that are just amazing, the rock formations. There's not a lot of trees that cover the mountains, so if you've ever been to Ireland or something, it looks like that.

Do you ever feel intimidated?

I wouldn't say intimidated. It throws you up against the wall and kind of gives you a check in the mirror. Are you a fit soldier? It's amazing how you have to be on your game 24-7, because they're looking at you to provide security for them. You can't just assume, "Hey, you guys know how I operate." I have to always go into detail on every step of the mission. Our intel threats are always great, up there with some of the strictest levels. With that, you've always got to be kind of on your toes and really watching out for yourself.

Do you interact with many locals?

We actually work with the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. They're great. Every time we go out on a mission, we have one or both of them with us. You can't ask them to come out with you without having a cup of tea with them and some bread. The people here are all about self-respect and always keeping their word. It's like that saying "my word is my bond." That's kind of what the people are like here. It's pretty neat. If you talk to them, you can always rely on them.

What do your parents think?

My mom is scared to death, but she knows I'm over here for a good reason. My dad has nothing but pride for me.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8857.

From Admiral Farragut to Afghanistan 04/20/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 23, 2010 10:53am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.
  2. Jones: Where are the difference-makers on the Bucs defense?

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — They can't tackle. They can't cover. They can't pressure the quarterback, let alone sack him.

    Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) scrambles past Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (98) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Bucs-Bills journal: Breakout game for Bucs tight end O.J. Howard

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It's obscured by the final score and a disappointing loss, but Bucs rookie tight end O.J. Howard had a breakout game Sunday, exceeding his season totals for catches and touchdowns in one afternoon.

    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard (80) celebrates a touchdown catch with quarterback Jameis Winston (3) during the second half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Vladislav Namestnikov is Lightning's top-line 'secret'

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Nikita Kucherov is piling up the goals. Steven Stamkos is an assist machine. They make for an impressive pairing in a league that favors scoring pairs over the more traditional three-player scoring lines.

    Vladislav Namestnikov (90) has three goals and 10 points on a line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.
  5. Bucs-Bills report card: Grading the Bucs' 30-27 loss at Buffalo

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Hard to believe, but this was only the second time in their history that the Bucs played a regular-season game in Buffalo. After Sunday loss, they wouldn't mind going another 40 years without playing here again.

    Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, seen during the first half, had a heck of a day calling plays, Tom Jones writes. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]