Fri May 10, 2013
National Guard Agricultural Advisors Returns Home From Afghanistan
A National Guard unit charged with developing agriculture in Afghanistan returned home to Madison today after about a four-month deployment overseas.
A military band and a crowd of friends and family welcomed home 11 members of the 97th Agribusiness Development Team at the National Guard headquarters in Madison. The unit was scheduled to be deployed a full year but had its tour cut short as the United States began to reduce its forces.
Staff Sergeant Jason Walters gets hugs from his family as he walks back in the door: “It feels fantastic, you know, it's great to see the wife and kids again and just be back in the U.S.”
Walters' background is in combat engineering and watershed management. He says Afghan agriculture has come a long way in the last decade.
“They have greenhouses, they have their university up and running for agriculture, they have insemination programs now for their livestock to increase genetic diversity — a whole bunch of programs that they might not have been able to get off the ground unless we went there to help them.”
Also returning home today is Captain Bill Barthon, who was a wildlife biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources before he was deployed. He says there are still things the Afghan people could learn when it comes to farming.
“But overall, families are able to produce food over there. They're doing OK. There are things they could do to do better with production and to store food longer into the winter so malnutrition isn't as big a problem as we hear about. But overall, the farmers seem to be able to make it work.“
Members of this unit say they were expecting more hands on work with agriculture during their deployment. Instead, they spent a lot of their time closing down U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.