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NEWS | Oct. 11, 2011

National Guard agribusiness seminar prepares commanders for a different fight

By Staff Sgt. David Bruce Army National Guard Atterbury-Muscatatuck

EDINBURGH, Ind. - A weapon unique to the National Guard was studied here last week - the Agribusiness Development Team.

Past and present National Guard Agribusiness Development Team commanders and staff took part in a seminar at the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center here last week.

An Agribusiness Development Team - composed of National Guard Citizen-Soldiers with agribusiness backgrounds and expertise - provides training and advice to Afghan universities, provincial ministries and local farmers.

According to Army Maj. Gen. Tim Kadavy, deputy director of the National Guard, the point of the seminar is to brainstorm better ways to get the mission accomplished.

It is an atypical mission, with an atypical force structure. The question becomes how do you undertake this mission and not reinvent the wheel every time a new team arrives in country?

"What's going on here is the sharing of ideas," said Kadavy. "This is an ad hoc structure. The Army doesn't have agribusiness development teams; there isn't a manual, there isn't a doctrine out there, and there is not a military occupational specialty providing school that builds that institutional knowledge in the U.S. Army.

"So, as we built this capability utilizing both our military skills and civilian skills, we have to take time out every now and then to get all the lessons learned so we can build a more professional, more capable agri-development team."

The National Guard received this mission because of the dual nature of National Guard Soldiers.

The average National Guard Soldier is a little older than his or her active component counterpart, and has the experience of civilian job skills that doesn't exist in the Army, said Martin Leppert, a retired colonel and Afghanistan subject matter expert with the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, who formulated the ADT structure in 2007.

"Who better to bring those skills and talents than a Guardsman?" said Leppert.

"It's awesome; we have so much talent in the Guard because of the civilian skills and maturity. The active component has a lot of advantages; it's their full-time job [being a Soldier] but our advantage is it's not [our full-time job]. We bring two jobs to the fight; skills of the Soldier and skills of agribusiness. It's something that no one else can do, except the Army Reserve, and they're not doing it."

During the conference, attendees hear presentations from past ADT members, government agencies and other subject matter experts, said Gary Supnick, development support division chief at U.S. Central Command, which oversees the Afghanistan theater.

"The purpose of the seminar is to bring commanders and their staff that are getting ready to deploy together so they can hear from leadership, Central Command, contemporaries, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other governmental agencies that are providing development and stability capabilities to this effort," said Supnick.

"To learn and scope what this task is in front of them and help them formulate how they want to go about approaching their deployment and really prepare them through some direct training, example and lessons learned from contemporaries how to get their team ready."

The seminar provides a conduit of information to enable a continuity of effort within the ADT mission. Without the ADT seminar, new ADTs would be starting from square one, said Kadavy.

"The conferences have taken all the lessons learned from the previous teams, they bring in the new teams, they share ideas; we're always trying to improve," said Kadavy.

"It's the passing on of work that's been done. We're not starting over every time we go in; it's building on what the past ADTs have done. The foundations have been built, and now it's how do we expand and make sure that the vision from the first ADT is continued so we continue to grow and empower what these ADTs are doing in Afghanistan."

The ADTs' impact in the war in Afghanistan doesn't manifest as territory held or numbers of insurgents dead, but in improving the quality in life for the rural Afghan farmer, said Leppert.

"It's a mission I never would have dreamed evolved to this," said Leppert. "Now, we have well over 100 people in the room trying to focus their efforts making things better for these teams. It's come a long way since we decided how to do this on a napkin in a chow hall in Afghanistan."

While the seminar focused on the sharing of information for the ADTs heading to Afghanistan, and all the personnel selected for this mission bring civilian job skills to the fight, there still remain the skills and battle drills that all Soldiers are required to know.

"This is a non-standard organization, providing common and specific training to the task at hand is a good undertaking and 1st Army does a good job at it," said Supnick. "They have the right facilities and the right people assigned."

Because of this nonstandard organization and mission support of the trainers the training support brigade's role is important, said Leppert.

"The (training support brigades) have a real willingness to adapt the training to support the mission," he said. "They right away see the good in it. Here, at Atterbury, we're blessed with guys who can see it clearly, envision how it is, and support with the training effort. It speaks very highly of the commanders here," he said.

Thanks to the training and civilian skills of these National Guard Soldiers, positive change can be witnessed in the lives of the people of Afghanistan.

Now, every provincial governor, every brigade combat team commander sees the skills and abilities as an asset in building stability in that province and helping enhance the capabilities of the Afghan farmer, said Leppert.

"In taking the steam out of the Taliban, it has been a great success," said Leppert.

Success in this regard is measured more in the acceptance of the government, the decrease in attacks and an improvement in the condition of the Afghan farmer as opposed to four years ago, when the program started, Leppert added.

"They are an incredibly powerful tool that the local brigade combat team commander utilizes to win the hearts and minds of the rural Afghan population," he said.

The demand for these atypical teams has increased as a result of their successes, said Kadavy.

"At every level the importance of the ADT is understood and the benefits and progress has been seen," he said. "The demand is growing higher as the success of the ADT grows and is known throughout the country. Every province in Afghanistan now wants an ADT to help jump-start its agriculture."



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