Kentucky National Guard
FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan – Jonathon Mixon, a 24-year-old civilian agricultural specialist with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Science and a master’s in Plant Pathology, believes a person has many callings and purposes throughout their lifetime.
When he graduated from the University of Tennessee in January 2012, life called him onto the direction of Afghanistan on a deployment with Soldiers, Airmen and other agricultural specialists with the Kentucky National Guard.
“It’s something I felt like God was calling me to do, and I knew from there that I was supposed to go no matter what anybody thought,” said Mixon, a civilian member of Agribusiness Development Team 4.
Deployed to southern Afghanistan, Mixon said, “My job on the mission is to be an agricultural advisor to the military ADT unit and provide technical knowledge and business knowledge to the unit on how we can spur economic and agricultural growth in the communities.”
“One of the things I heard was ‘if you leave the economy alone, it takes care of itself.’ I see it as our role to stand up that potential for good economic growth rather than illegal or illicit growth and push that forward,” Mixon said. “That way, when we do leave, the economy can take over and we’ll have a good presence here for stability and structure and the agricultural sector and other various sectors that we may touch through agriculture.”
For Mixon, helping others is nothing new. He’s been working on mission trips since the age of 14, most of which were in Belize in Central America.
“My first mission trip was when I was a freshman in high school,” he said. “You know, I just kind of fell in love with the idea of going and helping people and doing it for free just because we have so much and they have so little. It kind of got into me then, and I’ve just kind of nurtured it ever since.”
Mixon said his trips to Belize were with a church group, based around his hometown, which sponsored children to go to school.
“My dad sponsored children, then he started going. Then I started going after he did and we’d go down there and we’d work in villages…to build houses, outhouses, schools…just do various jobs to kind of build people up and put them on their feet, especially after a disaster would happen,” he said.
Mixon has also provided post-disaster relief, travelling to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina and around his home-state of Tennessee after tornadoes. He has also helped out in Kentucky and said it has always been something he’s enjoyed doing.
“I couldn’t see my future without it,” he said.
Mixon says his parents are proud of the work he’s doing in Afghanistan, but worried nonetheless.
“Their initial reaction was shock,” Mixon said. “But it really helped to have parents that were very supportive of the idea. They always encouraged me. They never told me ‘we don’t want you to go.’ Most of what they said was ‘we wish you weren’t going’ because it’s what every parent goes through, but they’ve always supported me,” he said.
Mixon said his love of agriculture began to grow when, at age 13, his father started farming on his own.
“He learned everything he knew from his grandpa in southern Georgia where he spent most his summers,” Mixon said. “I really started taking it seriously at around 13- or 14- [years-old].”
“I guess my two big loves in life were God and agriculture,” he said. “For me, [farming] allows me to start with nothing, make plans, execute them, and know that it’s all on you. You can be the cause for failure or great success.”
Mixon said the freedom of working on your own and being your own boss are some other things that he also loves about farming.
“Knowing that you answer to yourself, and if things go good, it’s on you. I kind of feel like that’s where we started in America,” Mixon said. “Rather than working a 9-to-5 [job], it was whenever you got up till you got it done.”
Mixon said the experiences so far in Afghanistan have taught him a lot.
“Something I kind of came to a realization with is that it’s very easy to say you’re patriotic, and when I came on this trip, I always thought I had a real good sense of what it meant to be patriotic,” he said.
“Coming over here, it showed me that there were a bunch of people that took time out of their lives just like the same commitment I was making. But they’d known for years that this was their job to protect America [and] to be a presence in other countries so our people can live free and safe,” he said.
Mixon believes poverty and safety are some of the things that Americans take for granted because most of their own complaints seem trivial.
“Most people in [Afghanistan], their thoughts are ‘can I find anything to eat’ or ‘can I find some money to buy something to eat. Is my family safe, is my house safe, is my land safe, are my assets safe?’” he said.
When Mixon leaves Afghanistan, he plans to return to farming.
“It’s something that I wanted to do right after college, and then this came up,’ he said. “I’d also like to pursue a potential future in mission work.”