Faces From the Front for January 19, 2009 - Sgt. Jen Dipley
Current Unit: 135th Forward, HHD JFHQ-MO, Missouri Agri-Business Development Team (ADT), Nangarhar ADT
Current Position: Large Animal Veterinary Specialist
Component: Missouri National Guard
Current Location: Jalalabad, Afghanistan
Hometown: Festus, Mo.
Years of Service: 6
As a member of one of the Army's newly formed Agri- Business Development Teams (ADT), Sgt. Jen Dipley is part of an innovative agricultural effort being implemented in Afghanistan. Focused on introducing and applying sustainable agricultural practices, the mission blends Soldiers' military skills with training in a wide variety of science-based disciplines.
Soldiers are selected for the duty based on their experience and education in agricultural practices such as planting and methods of animal usage. With a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Murray State University, Dipley was chosen to apply her skills as a Large Animal Veterinary Specialist in the Nangarhar province.
Dipley originally joined the Missouri National Guard in 2002 in response to the attacks of September 11th. She joined the Army as a recent college grad who felt a calling to be part of something larger than herself. She deployed to Iraq in 2005, where she served as a Unit Administrator with a Horizontal Engineer Company managing preparations for the unit's movements.
Now on her second deployment, this time in Jalalabad, Afghanistan with the Missouri ADT, Dipley evaluates the veterinary and livestock needs of the Nangarhar province and works with her team to develop projects that will improve the production and efficiency of the country's agricultural capabilities. She finds her role as teacher and instructor to be one of the most rewarding parts of her work.
"When we go to check on projects we are always met with smiles and thumbs up from the people of the villages," Dipley said. "I feel like we are really helping the people of Afghanistan to improve their way of life by teaching them new methods and ways to sustain their agricultural progress."
Dipley believes the success of these agriculturally-based projects has given the people of Afghanistan more trust and confidence in their government. Likewise, the country's economy benefits as Afghans become less dependent on high-priced imports and even begin to export their own agricultural goods. Dipley's work requires her to play the dual roles of problem-solver and realist, as everything her team implements must not only provide a solution, but be something the local villages can maintain and support.
"This is an invaluable experience for anyone who works in the field of agriculture," said Dipley. "The things you take for granted in the States, for example, availability of power, present an entirely different set of challenges in Afghanistan where power is not readily available. It helps you to appreciate how easily things are done in other parts of the world."
Dipley is scheduled to return home to Festus, Mo. in November 2009 to her husband, David, and their black Labrador/Beagle mix, Gracie. She hopes to apply the expertise she acquires during her current deployment to a career in animal science with the Missouri Dept. of Agriculture.