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Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, July 01, 2010, Pages 1 & 7

Smith to provide security for ADT team in Afghanistan

There is nothing unusual about training sessions at Iowa State University (ISU) Field Extension Education Laboratory (FEEL) west of Ames.

Sessions typically include classroom instruction, as well as lessons in test plots and surrounding fields. And it isn't out of the ordinary for ISU to hold educational events at the Animal Science Teaching Farms south of Ames or for ISU Horticulture Station in Gilbert to be the location of fruit and vegetable classes.

But to have one group of people receive training in crops and soils, animal husbandry, small scale poultry production and vegetable production and handling at these locations in the course of four days is very unusual.

TO have all program participants arrive in military attire is so rare that it hasn't happened before - until this past month.

As members of Iowa National Guard's 734th Agri-business Development Team (ADT) prepare for a year-long mission to Kunar Province in Afghanistan, ISU faculty and ISU Extension specialists are explaining techniques and methods that will help them improve agri-business half a world away.

Traveling as part of the ADT will be Lucas SMITH of Mount Ayr, but his role will be providing security for the other members of the team who will actually be working with the Afghanistan farmers. SMITH and some of his team have been working on security skills while the other members have been training in the agricultural areas.

A sendoff is planned today (Thursday) as the troops leave Iowa headed for Indiana and eventually Afghanistan.

Col. Craig BARGFREDE, commanding the 734th ADT, described the partnership between ADT and ISU. "We worked closely with Iowa State to design a training program based on the various projects that we will be working on in Afghanistan," BARGFREDE said. "While each individual on the team has a background in agriculture, those backgrounds are varied. The team includes a veterinarian, a veterinarian technician, agronomists, soil scientists, agricultural marketing and processing people as well as a CPA and a contracts manager. Many grew up or still live on farms."

At the end of the training, BARGFREDE expects his team to have a common baseline understanding that will improve their functionality as a team when they are on the ground in northern Afghanistan. [Page 7] "The mission of the ADT is to work with provincial leaders and the agricultural district to help them rebuild their agricultural infrastructure, rebuild irrigation systems and increase capacity of their agricultural systems."

It has been the mission of the ISU Extension Agri-business Education Program to create training that supports the needs of this team with diverse backgrounds. "ISU had the research to address the agricultural issues that the team will face in Afghanistan and extension specialists to teach in a way that will benefit the team," said Brent PRINGNITZ, ISU Extension program specialist.

"During the training, ISU Extension crop specialists covered wheat and corn production topics from soil sampling and understanding nutrient avilability and needs to pest management and setting up demonstration plots," he said. "Because of the limited technology and equipment of Afghanistan, the livestock specialists addressed handling livestock with limited supplies and ways to improve forages using available nutrient supplies."

The ADT learned about vegetable production and handling, and how to extend the growing season using high tunnels with ISU Extension horticulture specialists as their instructors. ISU arranged for small-scale poultry production instruction at an area producer's farm.

"Our extension specialists met the challenge of delivering information for a group of people with varying degrees of knowledge about each topic," PRINGNITZ said. "In the end, the ADT had a common understanding of the many agri-business issues they would be faced with in the coming year. They have a common starting point, even though none of us know exactly what they face."

ISU will continue to support the team during their time in Afghanistan with a reach-back component, according to PRINGNITZ said. "They will be responsible for helping the Afghan producers understand the needs of their soil."

The team will have ISU research and extension experts to consult as they set up demonstration plots and engage early adopter to implement new farming techniques in Afghanistan.

"We have established and will maintain a website of resources for the team and have saved all the training materials to DVD so they have a reference at hand when they are in the field without internet connections."

As part of their training the group also spent some time at Living History Farms, where they saw some agricultural practices similar to the ones they would be working with in Afghanistan.

When BARGFREDE'S team arrives in Afghanistan later this summer, they will face the needs of an agrarian area that their leader predicts will resemble Biblical times in terms of limited technology and small-plot farming. He is counting on the common baseline understanding of agricultural principles that ISU and extension provided his team to make it possible for them to accomplish the tasks that they are charged with.

~ ~ ~ ~

Local soldier readies for ag deployment


When I first found out about the Agri-Business Development Team (ADT) mission to Afghanistan last November, I volunteered right away.

In July, I'll have been in the Army four years, and I wanted to go on a deployment. This seemed like a pretty good one. We'll get to go and interact with people, rather than sitting "behind the wire" guarding prisoners.

Also, if the team needs help with construction, I'll be able to pitch in. I'm majoring in construction management at UNI and work in the summers roofing houses and putting up siding.

At first I wasn't sure I'd get to go. Soldiers on the ADT are hand-picked, and I was selected just as an alternate. Then a couple of months ago, another soldier had to withdraw from the team and I got word I would definitely be going.

We've been training for the ADT mission since January during weekend drills. We started training full-time the last week of May, and this month we've been training hard. We're getting less sleep, but we're getting even better at the soldier tasks that will keep us safe over there.

I'm a little nervous about the deployment because it is my first one to a combat zone. But the Security Forces section I'm a part of all come from the same military police company, and we all work really well together as a team. That makes me confident we'll be successful in our mission of protecting the agriculture experts on the ADT.

We'll be gong to Camp Atterbury in Indiana on July 1, right after a going away ceremony at Camp Dodge in Des Moines. My family will be there, and I really appreciate my mom and dad's support. I know they're proud of me. That's another reason I want to do a good job while I'm in Afghanistan.

My commander says I should keep everyone at home posted while I'm gone, so I'll write again when I have some more to tell you.

Specialist Lucas SMITH is a member of the Security Forces section of the Iowa National Guard's 734th Agri-Business Development Team (ADT). He is a lifelong resident of Mount Ayr and has been home visiting his parents -- James and June SMITH -- in preparation for the deployment. The ADT'S mission is to improve the productivity and sustainability of Afghan ag producers and agri-business,and build the capacity of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to provide agricultural services to its citizens.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, September of 2012

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lucas Smith back from Afghanistan ag deployment

Specialist Lucas Smith

A community homecoming ceremony was held for the 734th agribusiness development team of the Iowa National Guard Saturday at the Johnston high school gymnasium after the return of the group from Afghanistan.

Specialist Lucas SMITH, son of James and June SMITH of Mount Ayr, was one of the members of the team.

Serving in Afghanistan, the 734th agribusiness development team was the first-ever joint Iowa Army and Air National Guard unit to be deployed overseas. The team was comprised of approximately 60 Iowa Army and Air National Guard members from around the state of Iowa with backgrounds and expertise in various sectors of agribusiness.

SMITH provided security for the team.

Their mission was to provide training and advice to Afghan universities, provincial ministries and local farmers with the goal of increasing stability and improving opportunities for Afghanistan's re-emerging agribusiness sector.

Following their July 2010 send-off ceremony at Camp Dodge the soldiers and airmen reported to their mobilization station at Camp Atterbury, IN for additional training and preparation for departing for overseas operations in Afghanistan.

While in Afghanistan, the team initiated or expanded six demonstration farms in six different districts, helped Afghan veterinarians treat nearly 40,000 head of livestock, underwrote the planting of more than 70,000 trees for orchards and reforestation, conducted training of hundreds of Afghan men and women in items such as tree nurseries, orchard planting, greenhouse growing, row crop production and basic livestock care, funded cash-for-work canal cleaning projects, launched a range of micro-entrepreneurial projects and mentored key provincial governmental officials.

They served in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, for the duration of their deployment overseas.

The unit is out-processing at Fort McCoy, WI.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, July of 2011

To submit your Ringgold County news items, contact Sharon R. Becker at
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