A team of around 60 Iowa National Guard soldiers is moving into final preparations to deploy on a year-long mission to Afghanistan. Iowa Guard Colonel Craig Bargfrede will lead the agricultural development team that’ll help rebuild the country’s agricultural system.
He says they will look at projects that are sustainable for the future and will work in a province in the northeastern part of Afghanistan, known as Kunar province. Bargfrede says guardmembers with an ag background were asked to volunteer, and then they chose the members of the team from the group.
“This is truly a unique effort, in that this is the first ever deployment from the Iowa National Guard that is a joint deployment — meaning that we have both Army and air guard members from Iowa on this team,” Bargfrede says. The team members have been getting some training from Iowa State University on the specific types of crops used in Afghanistan.
He says I.S.U. will provided “reach back” capability, so if they have questions on projects, they can reach back to Iowa State and get questions answered. Bargfrede says the Iowa soldiers will replace a team from California that take up the projects they started.
Bargefrede says the projects range from animal husbandry type projects, to crops to irrigation, to marketing and storage of the various crops and produce.
He says in many cases the crops grown by the Afghans are for their own use. Bargefrede says they want to create an ability for the Afghans to be able to export products and and make money on them. Iowa National Guard Sergeant Major, Robert Reedy, has been overseeing the initial training.
He says the team if from all over the state and the last few months they have really been focusing on building the team. Reedy says they have just completed the first phase of the Yellow Ribbon pre-mobilization plan, which helps explain the mobilization to the soldiers and their families. Reedy says while they are going on an agriculture mission, they are still soldiers and have to be prepared to protect themselves.
“We all know that Afghanistan is a very dangerous place and we bring a very robust security force with us from our M-P company here in Des Moines,” Reedy says. He says the training also focuses on the basic soldier tasks so they can protect themselves, and will also train to use the equipment in Afghanistan. The team will leave Iowa the end of June for additional training and then expects to be in Afghanistan by August.