New Agriculture team takes charge in Afghanistan

By Staff Sgt. Paul Evans, Kentucky ADT 4 Unit Public Affairs Historian Representative

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Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bucky Harris, a resident of Lietchfield, Ky. gets information from Sgt. Matt Buitrago, of Lexington, Ky. at a gathering prior to a mission on February 11, 2012. The two are part of Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team 4, which recently deployed to southern Afghanistan to take over the mission from Kentucky’s ADT 3 teaching improved farming and business techniques to Afghanis.(Photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan— Talk to a Kentuckian around this small military base in the mountains of southern Afghanistan, and you will very likely get a feel for the nervous, excited vibe here.

For Soldiers of Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 3, who served the people of Afghanistan since April 2011 by teaching more effective farming and business methods, the excitement is centered on finally going home. Meanwhile, ADT 4, who arrived during the first week of February 2012, looks forward to building on ADT 3’s success helping the Afghan people.

“It’s been different (serving in Afghanistan), I can say that much,” said ADT 3’s Sgt. Darrell Buchanan, a 37-year-old native of Owensboro, Ky., before adding, “I think we’re leaving it (the mission) in good hands.”

“We’re more than ready to take over the mission. We trained really hard over the past few months,” said Sgt. Amanda Behling, a 25-year-old from Louisville, Ky.

While ADT 4’s mission will be the first of its type to teach farming in southern Afghanistan, ADT 3 spent their last few months in country helping get ADT 4’s living accommodations set up the south. The Team also helped establish contacts and get ADT 4 familiarized with routes before beginning the process of handing over operations to their replacements.

“It’s been a challenging last couple months for our deployment,” said ADT 3 Commander Col. Neil Mullaney, a native of Louisville, Ky., referring to their move from northern to southern Afghanistan.

“ADT 3 has gone above and beyond to make this as comfortable as it possibly can be. They moved (south) to come here and set up shop for us and they’ve done an excellent job,” Behling stated.

As 2012 progresses, Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 4 will take on the difficult task of continuing to build on the good reputation established by their predecessors before Kentucky ADT 5 takes over the mission in late 2012.

“We focused a lot on education and capacity… we did do some individual improvements for farmers as well,” Mullaney reflected. “But in order to have a long-term sustainable impact, we knew that was through education, so that’s what we really focused on.”

“I think the key thing that ADT’s can do is close the loop on the value chain,” explained Mullaney about the issues faced in their mission. “Afghan farmers have been farming for thousands of years…we’re not teaching them anything new. The problem is their post-harvesting techniques, getting goods to market, basically completing that value chain.”

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Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team 4 and Air Force Staff Sgt. John Stribling, a resident of Louisville, Ky. prepares for his first mission in southern Afghanistan on February 11, 2012. Stribling recently deployed as part of Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 4 to begin taking over the mission of teaching improved farming and business techniques to Afghanis from ADT 3. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans)

Buchanan took a few minutes to reflect on lessons learned in Afghanistan from his perspective.

“I’ve learned to not take as many things for granted anymore. Little things that used to annoy me with the kids before seem trivial now. I’ve just learned a lot about appreciating what you have because it could always be a lot worse,” recalled Buchanan. “ADT 3’s been a great team, though. I’ve enjoyed everybody here,” he added, noting his excitement at getting home to his wife, kids and 8-month-old daughter.

Buchanan’s parting advice for ADT 4 was simple.

“Always keep your eyes and your ears open, because you can always learn something new every day. If it gets to the point that you think you know everything, that’s probably when you’re going to get hurt,” said Buchanan.

“I think Col. Barrier (ADT 4 Commander) and his team are going to do a fantastic job,” concluded Mullaney.

In the end, both Afghanis and Kentuckians will likely continue learning from one another during the Agribusiness Development Team’s 4th rotation, even if ADT 4 has big shoes to fill replacing its predecessors.

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