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3rd Kentucky National Guard Agribusiness Development Team prepares for overseas deployment to aid Afghan farmers

The Soldiers and Airmen of the Kentucky National Guard Agribusiness Development Team III stand in formation during a farewell ceremony March 4, 2011, at the Kentucky Air National Guard base in Louisville, Ky. The team, which is slated to deploy to Afghanistan in April, will help Afghan locals regain their agricultural heritage by teaching modern farming and livestock skills as well as the business of agriculture. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Hiler, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

The Soldiers and Airmen of the Kentucky National Guard Agribusiness Development Team III stand in formation during a farewell ceremony March 4, 2011, at the Kentucky Air National Guard base in Louisville, Ky. The team, which is slated to deploy to Afghanistan in April, will help Afghan locals regain their agricultural heritage by teaching modern farming and livestock skills as well as the business of agriculture. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Hiler, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Army Sgt. Joshua Martin of Murray, Ky., a security force team leader for the Kentucky National Guard's Agribusiness Development Team III, holds his 3-year-old son, Gabriel, prior to the team's farewell ceremony March 4, 2011, at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. Team members are deploying to Afghanistan, where they will help Afghan farmers become agriculturally self-sufficient.  (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Hiler, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Army Sgt. Joshua Martin of Murray, Ky., a security force team leader for the Kentucky National Guard's Agribusiness Development Team III, holds his 3-year-old son, Gabriel, prior to the team's farewell ceremony March 4, 2011, at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. Team members are deploying to Afghanistan, where they will help Afghan farmers become agriculturally self-sufficient. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Hiler, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Col. Neil Mullaney, commander of the Kentucky National Guard's Agribusiness Development Team III, speaks to Soldiers, Airmen and family members during the team's farewell ceremony March 4, 2011, at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. Team members, who come from the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard, are deploying to Afghanistan in April to help Afghan farmers become agriculturally self-sufficient. Colonel Mullaney is the first Air Guard officer to lead a Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Hiler, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Col. Neil Mullaney, commander of the Kentucky National Guard's Agribusiness Development Team III, speaks to Soldiers, Airmen and family members during the team's farewell ceremony March 4, 2011, at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. Team members, who come from the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard, are deploying to Afghanistan in April to help Afghan farmers become agriculturally self-sufficient. Colonel Mullaney is the first Air Guard officer to lead a Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Hiler, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Nearly 60 members of the Kentucky National Guard's Agribusiness Development Team III and their families were honored March 4 during a farewell ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base.

The team, also known as Task Force Hurricane, is slated to deploy to Afghanistan in early April, where its members will provide training and advice to provincial ministries and local farmers so the country can become agriculturally self-sufficient through the development of an agricultural marketplace.

The task force, which is composed of Army and Air National Guardsmen with a variety of skills in agriculture, will build on the work of two earlier Kentucky Agribusiness Development Teams that also deployed to Afghanistan.

"I am deeply humbled to be allowed to serve alongside these Soldiers and Airmen," said Col. Neil Mullaney, a Kentucky Air Guard officer who will serve as commander of ADT III. "But the real heroes among us are the troops' families that we leave behind. They did not volunteer for this sacrifice; they are our heroes, and we applaud them."

Army Guardsman Sgt. Adam Reints will deploy as a part of the security team for Task Force Hurricane.

"I'm proud to have been one of the ones selected and am anxious to get started," he said. "It's such an important mission over there, and we're making such a huge difference."

While he is in Afghanistan protecting members of the team, Sergeant Reints knows his extended Guard family will also look after his wife, fellow Guardsman Sgt. Christy Reints.

"As a family member and a fellow Guardsman, I definitely support my husband and the ADT mission," she said. "It will be a hardship for us, just like all the other families, especially because we're now expecting our second baby."

Sergeant Christy Reints said she will lean on Kentucky National Guard resources to help her through the deployment.

"The Kentucky Guard has such a great support system ... and I know I can count on the family programs as well as my Family Readiness Group," she said.

This is the third agribusiness mission for the Kentucky National Guard. Agribusiness Development Team II is currently in Afghanistan and is expected to return in the coming weeks.

According to Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, adjutant general for Kentucky, the agribusiness development mission is one that was seemingly made for the Kentucky National Guard.

"When asked by the National Guard Bureau if we could provide an ADT for the mission, I emphatically said 'yes' and, in fact, would likely provide the best ADT in the nation," he said.

"That has held true for the first two teams and continues to hold true for this team," he said.

Some members of Task Force Hurricane bring years of personal agriculture experience with them, but every team member has received formal training in a wide range of agribusiness subjects in preparation for the deployment.

These subjects include bee keeping, soil composition, irrigation, plant disease, food preservation, halal slaughter-house processing, and marketing and branding.

The training was provided by a variety of partners, including the University of Kentucky, Western Kentucky University, Brown Foreman, the University of California -- Davis, and Brewer's Livestock in Scottsburg, Ind.

The objective was to provide the Guardsmen with the ability to mentor and advise Afghans on potential shortfalls in local education, processes and resources, Colonel Mullaney said.

The team also has more than a dozen specialists with especially valuable training, including a microbiologist, a veterinarian and a pathologist.

The Kentucky National Guard currently has more than 170 Soldiers and Airmen deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Nearly 14,000 Kentucky troops have mobilized for the War on Terror since 2001.