FRANKFORT, Ky. - A Kentucky National Guard veteran aviator used another skill set to help a unique team of Guard members prepare for an equally unique upcoming mission in Afghanistan scheduled for next year.
Agribusiness Development Team 4 members Army Staff Sgt. Catherine Corson, Army Sgt. 1st class Crystal Dunn and Army Capt. Varinka Barbini received beekeeping and honey extraction training from retired Jim Cline, a former chief warrant officer 4 at his residence here June 29.
Cline, an aviator for more than 30 years in the Kentucky Guard, stumbled into beekeeping literally after discovering a swarm on his property about five years ago. He owns fifteen hives, harvests honey and volunteers time to teach others about the process.
"I'm always pleased to help the troops out any time I can," Cline said. "If we can help the Afghani people do things like this for themselves, Im willing to help."
Barbini, Corson and Dunn were all unfamiliar with the bee trade until they met Cline. Now she said she is an aspiring beekeeper preparing to deploy to a war zone.
"It was very interesting how the bees create the wax and honey," Dunn said. "Depending on what they eat the honey can be darker or lighter.
Dunn, who until she met Cline, had only watched an animated movie about bees. She said the movie showed how the bees worked and everyone had a role ... they do need every bee to do their part so the hive will survive."
After several demonstrations, all three Soldiers stepped in to handle the bees and their hives. They learned how to identify the key components of the hive to include the queen bee, larva, honeycombs and bee wax.
Each Soldier demonstrated the honey harvesting process from start to finish. They then took turns breaking down the hives, using smoking techniques to isolate the bees and remove the screens with the honey combs.
Later, the harvested honey combs were taken to an extraction room where the combs were cut open to reveal the honey. They proudly watched as their newly learned skills paid off and fresh honey dripped through the filter into a bucket. The final step was to bottle and label their honey jars, a small memento of the days labor.
Dunn is looking forward to sharing her newly acquired knowledge when she deploys with ADT 4 next year to support and impact sustainability and economic development of the Afghan people.
"The beekeeping mission started with ADT 1," Dunn said. "It takes two to three years for a hive to produce a fair amount of honey and wax. ADT4 will be able to help support and educate to the next level of bee keeping and reintegrate how important bees are because of the pollination, honey, and wax they create."