By Army Sgt. Will Hill
(1/4/10) - Agribusiness Development Teams (ADTs) from the Indiana, Tennessee and Texas National Guard returned to the United States during the holidays after year-long deployments to Afghanistan.
Team members said they left Afghans with enhanced agriculture through their cooperative missions in 2009. The Texas Army Guard’s 65-member agribusiness team arrived here Christmas Day for demobilization. They headed home before the New Year.
Army Lt. Col. Michael Rockwell, deputy commander of the Texas ADT, said he is glad to be home and proud of their successful missions, which included teaching Afghans enhanced farming and distribution techniques.
“We built a slaughter facility to help change the health and sanitation of the meat,” he said. “Now, health inspectors check the quality of the meat and control the slaughter point, because before they slaughtered the animals in the street and had the blood just run down into ditches.”
The Guardmembers also surveyed a fish farm in their province.
“The fish farm will give them a new crop [rainbow trout]," said Sgt. Marty Conricote, a hydrologist with the Texas ADT. "And the farm will help them have multiple crops of fish a year, and an aquaculture building will allow them to raise their own fish.” The Indiana Army Guard’s ADT demobilized here on New Year’s Eve.
Their entire year focused on teaching better farming techniques to the Afghans, including irrigation and seed identification.
“We were teaching them how to identify good seed and distribution of the good seed evenly so they can produce the best product for best yield, for each acre,” said Maj. Larry Temple, an agronomist with the Indiana team.
“My proudest moment was seeing the excitement of the farmers while we were teaching them,” he said. “I could see they were learning something that would improve their farming operation, and they were really glad to see the progress in the farms.”
The Tennessee Guard’s 60-member team mixed their civilian agriculture skills with their military specialties as medics, infantrymen, engineers, truck drivers, military policemen and mechanics.
Their dual skill-sets helped the Guardsmen to assess and improve the Afghan's agribusiness and infrastructure while in a combat zone, Guard officials said.
The Tennessee ADT taught basic farming techniques, such as planting and harvesting crops and improving irrigation systems and crop storage facilities. They had scheduled nearly 50 agribusiness projects for the deployment. The Soldiers also worked in conjunction with a local Afghan university.
The Tennessee ADT was relieved by a team from Oklahoma.
Guard Bureau officials said the ADT program started as an initiative in 2007 by the Army Guard with the Missouri Farm Bureau and the University of Missouri. The first ADT deployed from Missouri in 2008.
The teams help enhance Afghan agriculture through cooperative training and improvement projects.