Agriculture team begins Afghanistan mission
By 1st Lt. Stephen D. Martin, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs
/ Published August 15, 2009
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The global war on terror took on a new dimension July 6 with the departure of the Kentucky National Guard's Agribusiness Development Team for Afghanistan.
Comprised of 64 Soldiers and Airmen with a variety of skills and background in agricultural matters, the team's mission is to teach the citizens of Afghanistan to be agriculturally self-sufficient and develop their own agricultural marketplace.
A departure ceremony was held for the team on the campus of Kentucky State University, where scores of friends, family members and colleagues gathered to wish the troops farewell. The Soldiers and Airmen will receive several weeks of mobilization training at Camp Atterbury, Ind., prior to deploying overseas.
Lt. Col. Carney Jackson, chief of the public health section in the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Medical Group and a civilian veterinary pathologist, said he hopes to teach the Afghanis how to better manage livestock like goats and sheep.
Decades of war and oppressive rule have eroded the agricultural knowledge base in the country, officials said. Basic management practices that are considered commonplace on family farms in the U.S. elude the nation's citizens, 70 percent of whom work to provide basic sustenance for the country.
"Most of the agriculture experience over there has pretty much been wiped out," said Col. Bill Ketterer, vice commander of the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing.
"If you can imagine losing your father and grandfather to the Taliban or some other regime, and then being asked to change the oil in your vehicle, grow and harvest crops, sell your products, grow and process your animals and take them to market, you start to imagine the void that exists in Afghanistan. We're not going to feed them. The Kentucky National Guard is going there to teach them to fish."