TOPEKA, Kan. - One of the things the United States is known for is its military might, but a group of Kansas National Guardsmen will soon be demonstrating that there is more to the National Guard than that as they deploy in February 2009 to show the people of Afghanistan how to do something that Kansans are known for: farming.
A joint Kansas Army and Air National Guard team of approximately 60 personnel will go to Afghanistan next year as an Agribusiness Development Team (ADT).
The team, comprised of personnel with backgrounds and expertise in various aspects of the agribusiness field, will work in conjunction with the Provincial Reconstruction Team, USAID, USDA, the Department of State and other agencies in Afghanistan’s Laghman Province. Their year-long mission is to assist in building capabilities for increased agricultural production, training and services, and improving the safety of food and other agricultural products that are produced and distributed to the Afghan people.
They will also assist in the development of sustainable agriculture and other related enterprises that will increase the economic well-being of the Afghans.
The Kansas National Guard will be performing this mission in partnership with Kansas State University over a three year period to build continuity and relationships with local and regional Afghan individuals and leaders.
“This is an incredible mission for our Guard members who are again stepping up to serve,” said Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. “And on this mission they are teaching the people of Afghanistan something that will benefit them and their families for years to come.”
“Most people know the National Guard as defenders of freedom, but we’re also builders,” said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the adjutant general. “Sometimes, we build physical things, like roads and bridges, but in this case were helping to rebuild a society. These Kansas Guardsmen will assist the people of Afghanistan to develop and improve their agricultural production and storage, making life a little better for everyone.”
“This is a unique opportunity for members of the Agribusiness Development Team to employ both their military and civilian skills in Afghanistan and for the people who need our assistance,” said Col. Eric Peck, commander of the first Kansas ADT. “All members of the ADT are training hard to meet the mission requirements from a military perspective. We are also working with our Kansas State University partners to develop a cultural and agricultural training program that will benefit all three of the Kansas-lead teams.”
The Agribusiness Development Team program is a joint effort of several federal government agencies and the National Guard. The concept has been successfully used in Central America for approximately 20 years. The first such team was deployed from Missouri to Afghanistan in February 2008 and a second was deployed from Texas in June. Four additional teams, including the one from the Kansas National Guard, will be deployed over a 12 month period.
Information about the program and its goals can be found at http://www.army.mil/aps/08/information_papers/other/ARNG_Agribusiness_Development_Team.html.