JALALABAD, Afghanistan - Two Agribusiness Development Teams that are currently working in eastern Afghanistan and the two ADT's that will replace them met here Jan. 28 to compare notes, share best practices and chart the way ahead for the ADT's in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces.
The Iowa National Guard’s 734th ADT, based in Kunar, and Missouri ADT IV, based in Nangarhar, have been working to develop the agribusiness sector in eastern Afghanistan since July. The Illinois National Guard’s 1-14th ADT is slated to relieve the Iowa team in a few months, while Missouri ADT V will do the same for Missouri ADT IV at about the same time.
The ADT conference, which kicked-off at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Jalalabad, marked the first time all four ADT's had gathered. During opening remarks, U.S. Army Col. Andrew Poppas of Janesville, Wis., commander of the 101st Airborne Division’s Task Force Bastogne, commended the Iowa ADT and Missouri ADT IV, and urged the incoming ADT's to emulate their predecessors.
“You’re looking at two ADT's in Iowa and Missouri that came in here at a sprint and haven’t let up,” Poppas said. “You’ve got a very limited amount of time to make a difference here, so make sure you’re prepared to hit the ground running.”
U.S. Army Col. Craig Bargfrede of Ankeny, Iowa, commander of the Iowa ADT, credited the TF Bastogne Civil Affairs team for organizing the conference. He also explained the event’s primary objectives.
“Colonel Fortune [the commander of Missouri ADT IV] and myself wanted to make sure the teams that will follow us can transition seamlessly,” Bargfrede said. “This conference has given us the opportunity to share our experience with them first-hand, and given them the opportunity to get a brigade-level perspective on civil-military operations.”
Michael Fortune is a St. Louis native and U.S. Army colonel. He noted many of the lessons Missouri ADT IV learned in Nangahar mirror the experiences of the Iowa ADT in Kunar.
“I think Craig and I both agree that to maximize its effectiveness, the ADT must focus on empowering, motivating, training, and inspiring the Afghan people and their government to take ownership of and to address the many agriculture-related challenges here,” Fortune said. “In other words, we must find ways to get the Afghans fully invested in their own future."
Those lessons were important, according to U.S. Army Col. Fred Allen of Delavan, Ill., who commands the Illinois ADT.
“We just came from five days at the COIN [counterinsurgency] Academy in Kabul, and that was a lot of big-picture stuff,” Allen said. “It was great, but this conference has given us a much better view of some of our actual operational considerations, and we’ll be able to use what we’ve learned here to round out our pre-mobilization training.”
There are some differences between the situations of the Illinois ADT and Missouri ADT V. The Illinois ADT is replacing an ADT from Iowa, which replaced an ADT from California. In contrast, the Missouri National Guard constituted all four ADT's that have worked in Nangahar province since early 2008, and has committed to forming the next three ADT's that will serve in Nangahar. U.S. Army Col. John Akers of Troy, Mo., commander of Missouri ADT V, agreed the continuity of the Missouri ADT's is an advantage.
“It is, because we’re able to directly build on the accomplishments of the last ADT,” Akers said. “It also gives us a wealth of folks who have been on these ADT's across the state,” he added. “We’ve got people from Missouri ADT I and II working in state headquarters now, and we’ve got reach-back capability to that experience if we need it.”
Still, Akers pointed to the ADT conference as a significant educational experience for his team.
“This really showed me how important it is to put an ‘Afghan-face’ on what we’re doing here,” Akers said. “The emphasis isn’t on spending money on projects; it’s on getting the Afghan government into a position that they can provide agricultural services that are sustainable.”