Veteran Kentucky National Guard aviator helps Agribusiness Development Team with honey of a mission

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Story and photos by Capt. Varinka Barbini, Agribusiness Development Team 4

Sgt. 1st Class Crystal Dunn, retired Chief Warrant Officer Jim Cline and Staff Sgt. Catherine Corson show off their beekeeping talents.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A veteran Kentucky National Guard aviator is helping a unique team prepare for an equally unique mission in Afghanistan.

Agribusiness Development Team 4 members Staff Sgt. Catherine Corson, Sgt. 1st class  Crystal Dunn and Capt. Varinka Barbini received beekeeping and honey extraction training from retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jim Cline at his residence in Frankfort, Ky., June. 29.   Cline was an aviator for the Kentucky National Guard for over 30 years.

Cline stumbled into beekeeping literally after discovering a swarm on his property.  Five years later and he has fifteen hives, harvests honey and volunteers teaching others about the process.  He’s often seen at the local farmers market selling honey with his grandchildren.

“I’m always please to help the troops out any time I can,” said Cline.   “If we can help the Afghani people do things like this for themselves, I’m willing to help.”

Kentucky National Guard Capt. Varinka Barbini, Agribusiness Development Team 4, receives hands on bee keeping training from retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jim Cline.

Corson, Dunn and Barbini were all unfamiliar with the bee trade until they met Cline.  Dunn explained that her only knowledge with beekeeping is the animated Bee Movie she watched with her children, Alexis, 10, and Chloe, 8.

Now she’s an aspiring apiculturist preparing to deploy to a war zone.

“It was very interesting how the  bees create the wax and honey,” said Dunn.  “Depending on what they eat the honey can be darker or lighter.  The movie showed how the bees worked and everyone had a role, and in reality bees work hard, and they do need every bee to do their part so the hive will survive.”

Kentucky Guardsman Sgt. 1st Class Crystal Dunn, Agribusiness Development Team 4, bottles honey during a bee keeping class with retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jim Cline.

After several demonstrations, all three Soldiers stepped in to handle the bees and their hives.  They learned how to identify the key components of the hive to include the queen bee, larva, honeycombs and bee wax.  Each Soldier demonstrated the honey harvesting process from start to finish.  They then took turns breaking down the hives, using smoking techniques to isolate the bees and removing the screens with the honey combs.

Later, the harvested honey combs were taken to Cline’s extraction room.  Here the combs were scored or cut open to reveal the honey.  The Soldiers were spoiled with his high tech centrifuge that spun the exposed combs to release the honey.  They proudly watched as the fresh honey dripped through the filter into the five gallon bucket.  The final step was to bottle and label their honey jars, a small memento of the day’s labor to be savored with family and friends when they returned home.

Sweet success! Kentucky Guardsmen Sgt. 1st Class Crystal Dunn, Capt. Varinka Barbini and Staff Sgt. Catherine Corson, Agribusiness Development Team 4, holds bottles of honey they captured while training with retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jim Cline.

ADT 4 will deploy to Afghanistan next year to support and impact sustainability and economic development of the Afghan people. Dunn is looking forward to sharing her newly acquired knowledge when she gets overseas.

“The beekeeping mission started with ADT 1,” Dunn said.  “It takes two to three years for a hive to produce a fare amount of honey and wax.  ADT4 will be able to help support and educate to the next level of bee keeping and reintegrate how important bees are because of the pollination, honey, and wax they create.”

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