Third ag team completes Afghanistan tour
By Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht, 123rd Airlift Wing
/ Published October 11, 2012
KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Fifty-eight members of the Kentucky National Guard's Agribusiness Development Team 3 were honored during a welcome-home ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base Feb. 28, concluding a 10-month deployment to Afghanistan that saw substantial advances in local farming techniques.
KYADT 3 was charged with sustaining the relationships built between former KYADTs and Afghan farmers to ensure the country becomes agriculturally self-sufficient through the development of an agricultural marketplace, officials said. The task force was comprised of Army and Air National Guardsmen with a variety of skills in agricultural matters.
"Without a doubt, the hard work of our third agribusiness development team will continue to be realized by an Afghan nation 20 years from now ... and beyond," said Brig. Gen. Mike Dornbush, chief of the Kentucky National Guard's joint staff, to a crowd of more than 300 friends and family who gathered to greet the team, also known as Task Force Hurricane.
Presiding over the homecoming ceremony was Army Brig. Gen. Steve Hogan, Kentucky's assistant adjutant general.
"In a war-torn nation where 70 percent of the population earns its living as farmers, the ability to increase the presence and legitimacy of the government's local agriculture representatives can be a key to winning the counterinsurgency fight," Hogan said. "You have shown our nation your Unbridled Service."
Among the team's achievements, Task Force Hurricane mentored professors at Al Bironi University to dramatically expand their knowledge base and improve instructional techniques through a microscope training program that focused on plant pathology, officials said.
The team also was instrumental in executing the first-ever commercial mulberry harvest in the Panshir Valley, producing 75 metric tons of mulberries while introducing a new juice product to the local marketplace and netting area farmers more than $45,000.
KYADT 3 was the first Agribusiness Development Team to move its entire unit off Bagram Air Base, aiding counterinsurgency efforts while placing members closer to the projects and Afghan government officials they were assisting.
Task Force Hurricane's return marks the end of the third agribusiness mission for the Kentucky National Guard. KYADT 4 is currently in Afghanistan and will continue the work undertaken by KYADT 3.
Col. Neil Mullaney, KYADT 3 commander and the first Air Guard officer to lead an agribusiness team, expressed his appreciation to audience members for their support over the past 10 months.
"I want to thank the families, friends and loved ones of Task Force Hurricane for allowing your Soldiers and Airmen to serve our nation," Mullaney said. "It has been an honor to serve with you, beside you and as your commander. I thank you."
The Kentucky National Guard currently has nearly 450 Soldiers and Airmen deployed across the world. More than 14,000 Kentucky troops have deployed in support of the Global War on Terror since 2001.