Kentucky Guardsmen honored at State Fair Country Ham Breakfast

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Michael J. Oliver, Kentucky Guard Public Affairs Office

Kentucky National Guardsmen of the Agribusiness Development take time for a group photo at the 48th Annual Kentucky State Fair Country Ham Breakfast at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky., Aug. 25. Pictured from left to right is Ann Evans, Governor's Mansion director, Capt. Travis Riley, KYADT2, Maj. Fred Bates, KYADT2, Sgt. Ashley Branson, KYADT2, Col. Hunter Mathews, KYADT2 commander, Capt. Varinka Ensminger, KYADT4, Maj. Walt Leaumont, KYADT4, and Steve Meredith, Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet. (photo by Staff Sgt. Michael J. Oliver, Kentucky Guard Public Affairs Office)

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — National Guardsmen of the Agribusiness Development Team were honored guests at the 48th Annual Kentucky State Fair Country Ham Breakfast  on Aug. 25, at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.

Kentucky Guardsman Sgt. Ashley Branson, Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team 2 and two year old daughter Skyler attend the 48th Annual Kentucky State Fair Country Ham Breakfast in Louisville, Ky., Aug. 25. (photo by Staff Sgt. Michael J. Oliver, Kentucky Guard Public Affairs Office)

The event brought more than 1,600 people from around the Commonwealth including Gov. Steve Beshear, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Commissioner of Agriculture Richie Farmer and Mark Haney, President of Kentucky Farm Bureau.

“It’s good to be back in a country where no one is trying to shoot at you,” said Col. Hunter Mathews, KYADT2 commander. “Nothing like a trip to a developing country to make you appreciate the United States.”

Mathews attended the breakfast with four other KYADT2 members and two members of KYADT4 who are set to deploy next year.  KYADT2 returned from Afghanistan in May.

“Nobody else here got the entire room on their feet but we did. That was pretty cool to get that type of recognition,” said Sgt. Ashley Branson, KYADT2.

Maj. Walt Leaumont, Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team 4 operation officer and Col. Hunter Mathews, Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team 2 commander, talk to Gov. Steve Beshear at the 48th Annual Kentucky State Fair Ham Breakfast in Louisville, Ky., Aug. 25. (photo by Staff Sgt. Michael J. Oliver, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office)

The KYADT 2 deployed to Afghanistan last July to help Afghan farmers become agriculturally self-sufficient, create business opportunities through a women’s empowerment initiative, and provide force protection.

“I think it was the best mission to go on because we got to see a different side of the war.We got to connect with them,” says Branson.

The KYADT3 will be replaced by the fourth Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team next year.

“It’s a worthwhile mission because when we deploy and return back home, our legacy will continue to help the Afghan people,” said Maj. Walt Leaumont, KYADT4 operation officer.

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