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NEWS | May 10, 2010

Kentucky ADT mobilizes for Afghanistan

By Courtesy Story

FRANKFORT, Ky., - Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, adjutant general for Kentucky, joined hundreds of friends and family today in saying farewell to more than 60 members of the Kentucky National Guard's Agribusiness Development Team II (Task Force Ironhorse) in a ceremony at Keeneland Race Track in Lexington, Ky.

"There have never been more qualified, ready, and trained people to go out and do the mission for Kentucky and the United States than these Soldiers and Airmen before you today," Tonini told the crowd. "They will do us all so very proud."

The members of ADT II (Task Force Ironhorse) will next travel to Camp Atterbury, In. for several weeks of training before deploying to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Assigned with the mission of assisting Afghan farmers in becoming agriculturally self-sufficient and develop their agricultural marketplace, the task force is composed of a mix of Army National Guard Soldiers and Air National Guard Airmen with a variety of skills and backgrounds in agriculture matters.

This will be the second such mission for the Kentucky National Guard. Kentucky's first Agribusiness Development Team is currently in Afghanistan and is expected to return in the coming weeks.

"Whenever someone in Washington mentions the National Guard's agribusiness development mission, they think Kentucky," Tonini said. "Even though eight other states are involved in this federal mission, Kentucky leads the way. Our first team, which is currently in Afghanistan, helped make that happen."

Here are some facts on the Kentucky National Guard's ADT mission:

• ADT II is Composed of 64 Soldiers and Airmen gathered from both Army National Guard and Air National Guard units across the Commonwealth of Kentucky, as well as U.S. Army Reserve and Virginia National Guard.

• The core of the unit is 10 agriculture and marketing specialists, including farmers, range management specialists, marketing managers, animal husbandry specialists, soil and irrigation specialists, and a large animal veterinarian.

• Also included are a command and staff cell of 17 members, an agriculture engineering assessment team of two engineers, and a force protection platoon of 34 Airmen and Soldiers.

• The mission of the Agribusiness Development Team is to help revitalize agriculture in Afghanistan. Seventy percent of Afghans earn their living from agriculture, and it produces 40 percent of Afghanistan's gross national product. If we can improve their agriculture, we improve their standard of living; improve the stability of the provincial and central government; and decrease the likelihood that locals will find any reason to support insurgents or terrorists.

• The Agribusiness Development Team is not aiming to transform Afghanistan's farms into modern Kentucky farms. Rather, the ADT will help the Afghans make incremental, but substantial improvements in their agriculture, and capitalize on what they already do well.

For example, Afghan farms produce some of the best quality raisins in the world, but they often lose around 40 percent of their crop due to a lack of trellises. With assistance, they can improve their vineyards and their production.

Another example is the business side of agriculture. The current Kentucky ADT in Afghanistan is helping pomegranate farmers obtain better prices for their fruit and juice by selling on the world markets rather than just locally.

• ADT II is following an existing Kentucky Team, ADT I, commanded by COL Mike Farley, that has been working in Afghanistan since September 2009 - so ADT II will take an existing, highly successful Kentucky operation and continue to move forward.

• ADT II will be based at Bagram Airbase, north of Kabul, the largest Allied base in Afghanistan. ADT II is responsible for four provinces in the eastern region of Afghanistan: Bamiyan, Panjshir, Parwan and Kapisa.

• There are currently eight National Guard Agribusiness Teams in Afghanistan, from Kentucky, Missouri, Texas, Nebraska, Indiana, Tennessee, Kansas and Oklahoma. California, South Carolina and Florida are sending teams soon.

• ADT II will work primarily supporting the Afghan Government's existing agriculture extension service, the DAIL (Director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock). The goal is always to train and assist, never to substitute our decisions for those of local farmers and leaders.

• ADT II is receiving agricultural training and expertise from the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, and will have the capability to reach back to Kentucky for knowledge and skills whenever expert advice is needed.

For example, the University of Kentucky has a site that will allow members of the ADT II to take photographs of possible diseases or viruses, post them on the UK website and within a few days the AG team will have validated results.