UGA to hold on-the-farm training for Georgia National Guardsmen heading to Afghanistan

Athens, Ga. – A group of Georgia National Guardsmen will get a crash course in basic agricultural practices from the University of Georgia Sept. 24-28 as they prepare for an upcoming mission to help Afghani farmers improve their crops and their families’ standard of living.

Over the past three years, series of Georgia National Guard units—known as agribusiness development teams or ADTs—have traveled to Afghanistan to work as international extension agents. While a few of the 20 or so citizen soldiers have backgrounds in agriculture, none of them have ever farmed on dry, mountainous land, which is what they will find in Afghanistan.

That’s where the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences comes in. The college’s faculty will help the guardsmen of ADT III, who will deploy in spring 2013, learn the skills needed to farm in Afghanistan. The training will be held on the UGA Tifton campus.

ADT III is made up of citizen soldiers from across the state who are deploying as part of the Augusta-based 201st Regional Support Group.

“The strategy most employed by ADTs is that of providing training and support to Afghan government officials so that they can then provide services to Afghan citizens,” said Col. Barry Beach of the 201st Regional Support Group. “Since the majority of Afghanistan’s citizens are involved in the agriculture industry, the services they most need are agriculture related, which makes the work of ADTs critical to building Afghan government capacity.”

ADT II, which trained last fall, is currently deployed to Afghanistan. ADT I returned home from their tour this past spring. The teams are tasked with helping farmers organize marketing cooperatives, teaching goat farmers basic veterinary skills and giving Afghan women the tools they need to raise and preserve food to help support their families.

Eight members of the first agribusiness development team—from Augusta, Atlanta, Clarksville, Dalton and Ringgold—are scheduled to deploy a second time with ADT III.

The team’s training schedule in Tifton will cover basic poultry production, greenhouse cultivation, erosion mitigation and watershed protection, dairy cow care and milking, drip irrigation systems, bee keeping and goat care. The team also will receive a briefing from the currently deployed soldiers of ADT II via Skype Sept. 24.

For more information about training schedule and media availability, contact Merritt Melancon at 706/542-9724 or 706/410-0202.