KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Members of the Indiana National Guard's 3-19 Agribusiness Development Team recently had an opportunity to experience life on a college campus.
The Soldiers and airmen of the 3-19 ADT were not enrolled in classes, however, but rather providing quality assurance at a seminar at Shaikh Zayed University in Khowst Province, Afghanistan, Feb. 21.
This project-based training seminar was the second phase of a larger initiative called the Future Farmers of Afghanistan, a program intended to develop today's Afghan youth into tomorrow's successful farmers.
Over 120 high school teachers from Khowst Province participated in the 12-day training seminar, which was conducted by the university's Faculty of Agriculture.
In addition to the high school educators, agriculture experts from each of the province's 13 districts also took part in the seminar.
U.S. Army Col. Walt Colbert, the 3-19 ADT commander originally from Indianapolis, Ind., was quite passionate as he explained the importance of this project.
"As we began to understand the enormity of linking the Afghan farmers to their government," he said, "we circled back to education."
"We have also discovered several key Afghan partners who share this vision as the way ahead for the people of Afghanistan, and in particular Khowst Province," Colbert added.
In addition to linking provincial partners, FFA has a uniquely "Hoosier" flavor to it as well.
U.S. Army Major Jeremy Gulley, the 3-19 Education Officer who is also a high school principal in Hartford City, Ind., compiled dozens of agricultural lesson plans that had been submitted by several Indiana-based chapters of Future Farmers of America; which were subsequently used to develop the SZU program.
Gulley first envisioned the FFA project while listening to a former U.S. Department of Agriculture official discuss the need for a development and leadership program focused toward Afghan youths.
ADT members began working with SZU in 2008 while the Indiana National Guard's 1-19th ADT was on the ground in the Khowst area.
Three years and three teams later, the relationships have matured to a level that makes a project such as FFA possible.
"The collaborative effort across multiple line directors has proven to be a successful technique for this area of operations," said Colbert. "We were very fortunate to be able to share these successes with the leadership of the (Indiana National Guard's) 4-19th ADT, which ensures continuity of effort moving forward."