War on Terrorism

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Face of Defense: Soldier Teaches Techniques to Iraqi Farmers

By Army Staff Sgt. Jody Metzger
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 8, 2009 - Iraqi farmers, still struggling from two decades of neglect under the oil-focused regime of Sadaam Hussein, are finding a friend in Army Capt. Suzanne Todd. Todd, of Jacksonville, Fla., is the agriculture and veterinary advisor for the 4th Infantry Division, Multinational Division Baghdad. Her appointment is the latest in coalition efforts to move beyond providing security to Iraq, and rebuild the country and its resources to allow for Iraqi sovereignty, officials said.

Todd, who serves with the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion, is well-suited for the job. She a bachelor's degree in international relations from William and Mary University in Virginia and earned her commission through the ROTC program.

After spending time in the Army Reserve, Todd decided to use the military's financial help and go to veterinarian school. Following graduation from Michigan State University, Todd joined the ranks of the Army as a veterinary officer.

Todd said she could have had a good civilian career, but she always felt the need to be in the Army.

"I have always wanted to be in the military. It's kind of what I always wanted to do when I graduated, but at the time they were downsizing the active duty military, so I joined the reserves," she said.

The influence to join the Army came from Todd's mother and father, who also served in the Army. Though they didn't actively push for their daughter to join, they were very supportive of her decision.

"My mother was an Army nurse and father was in the medical field," she said. "They both had good experiences."

Todd's interests in agriculture and animals and her tenacity to follow her heart have paid off. As an advisor for Multinational Division Baghdad, she said, she now looks at her career field as a way to help educate Iraqi farmers on more advanced techniques.

Army Lt. Col. Arnold Csan, chief of the division's civil affairs planning team, said Todd's efforts have helped to create jobs. "Since she has been here, she has gone out on missions to the vocational college and the vaccine center, both of which serve countrywide," he explained. "Her focus as an agriculture expert for MND-B has been behind the largest employment of young men in Iraq."

Todd has consulted with Iraqi farmers and veterinary hospital clinics and instituted a plan to redevelop the farming infrastructure.

"One of the things they have problems with is the salinity in the soil, because their traditional method of irrigation is flood irrigation," she said. "They open up the flood gates of their irrigation canals, and they flood their fields with water. If there is a high salinity or salt content in the soil, which there is, that ends up in the water."

There is a way to reclaim the land, she explained, but it takes a while to leach that salinity out of the soil. The water comes in the same way, but must be treated before it's on the fields.

Since arriving in Baghdad, Todd has advised and introduced farmers to techniques such as drip-and-spray irrigation, along with pioneering the idea of employing a new variety of high-yield seeds.

Along with her work with the farmers and their irrigation and crop-growing needs, Todd also has done extensive work relating to the farm animals, which are equally important to the welfare and sustenance of the Iraqi people.

"If you consider agriculture, it also goes along with animal agriculture," she said. "The animals that we raise to be our food – that's where veterinarian medicine plays a role. We as veterinarians are concerned not only about the health of livestock we grow for food, but [also] how their health impacts our health. The diseases that the animals get can impact what diseases we get."

(Army Staff Sgt. Jody Metzger serves in the Multinational Division Baghdad public affairs office.)

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