Agribusiness Development Team celebrates The Derby in Afghanistan

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Catherine Corson, Kentucky National Guard Agri-business Development Team 4

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Staff Sgt. Mark Arnold of Harrodsburg, Ky. makes effective use of a wooden ‘Derby Horse’ in Southern Afghanistan May 5, 2012 while Lawrenceburg, Ky.’s Sgt. Bobby Sizemore enjoys the ‘race.’ Not able to attend Kentucky Derby festivities stateside, the Soldiers of Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 4 did their best to celebrate with limited resources. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Evans/Released)

NOTE:  Each week kentuckyguard.com publishes stories by or about Kentucky National Guard unit public affairs historian representatives, also known as UPAHRs.  This is an additional duty taken on by a Soldier or Airmen with the intent of telling their unit’s story.  This is one such story ….

FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan–The distance from Churchill Downs to Kandahar Province, Afghanistan is exactly 7,281.8 miles. On May 5, 2012, there were no Derby Pies, Bourbon Balls or Mint Juleps to be had on their remote base in Southern Afghanistan’s mountains. But that did not stop the Soldiers, Airmen and Civilian Agricultural Specialists of Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 4 from planning festivities that brought a little bit of ‘Derby magic’ to the night.

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While most Kentuckians stateside slept, these Derby goers donned their homemade hats, made from goods from a local Afghan market, wore their ‘lucky’ t-shirts, and enjoyed good fellowship.  FOB Pasab’s chow hall even contributed a little bit, catering BBQ style food.

“One of the best things about the National Guard is that we bring a small piece of the Commonwealth everywhere we go,” said Lexington, Ky., native, Staff Sgt. Robert Foushee. “Being here gives us the unique opportunity to expose Soldiers, Sailors, and contractors from all over the world to one of the fundamental traditions that makes the Bluegrass great.”

ADT 4’s Soldiers strategically placed decorations assembled from various care packages, while a few even built a wooden horse for their ‘Derby Party.’ Festivities included a dance off, card games, and corn hole, to name a few – if only for a moment, the war seemed to fade away for some of ADT 4’s members.

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Maj. Walter Leaumont (right) of Lexington, Ky. serves Spc. Chris Young of Richmond, Ky. some pasta salad during a makeshift ‘Derby Party’ in Southern Afghanistan May 5, 2012. Not able to attend Kentucky Derby festivities stateside, the Soldiers of Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 4 did their best to celebrate with limited resources. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Evans/Released)

“For those that are annual Derby attendees, this seemed to fit the bill. For others, it was merely a ‘time out’ of the everyday monotony of running missions and prepping equipment,” said Staff Sgt. William Lile of Louisville, Ky.

Not everything from the Derby could be simulated in Afghanistan, however. In Louisville, where the actual 138th running of the Kentucky Derby took place, the weather brought sunshine, some rain and 72 degree temperatures. Afghanistan, meanwhile, was a blistering 98 degrees with absolutely no rain.

The Derby Party wasn’t all-bad, according to some party goers.

“It was a great way to ‘let our hair down’ and enjoy the Bluegrass spirit even though we are thousands of miles from home,” said Maj. Walter Leaumont, a Lexington, Ky. resident.

Unfortunately, not everyone from ADT 4 could understand all the hoopla surrounding the Derby. There were ‘foreigners’ from out of state among the team.

Chief Warrant Officer Scott McCauley, who is originally from Pittsfield, Mass. and now resides in Versailles, Ky., has never attended the Derby. He offered his insight to ‘good’ betting criteria, however.

“I have always rooted for the ‘blue horse,’ not realizing that it was always going to be third out of the gate,” he joked.

Maybe with some help from fellow Kentuckians at next year’s 139th running of the Kentucky Derby, McCauley will upgrade his betting criteria.

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