By Capt. Olivia Cobiskey, 205th Infantry Brigade Public Affairs OfficerJune 28, 2012
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. -- "Our first line of defense is our ability to feed and cloth the people," Ret. Maj. Gen. Darren G. Owens, after giving a brief history of the U.S. Department of Agriculture created in 1862. "If people don't have enough food to feed their families they will sell their soul to the devil."
It's for this reason that food security is paramount to a country's stability, Owens told the attendees of the recent Agri-business Development Conference at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind.
The conference supports part of the First Army Division East mission to train and deploy joint service assets to multiple areas of operations. Mobilizing, training, deploying, and demobilization missions at Camp Atterbury are accomplished by First Army Division East's 205th and 157th Infantry Brigades.
Commanders of the Agribusiness Development Teams expected to deploy in the next year were invited to the three-day conference, hosted by the 205th, to learn about both civilian and military resources available to their teams.
Agriculture accounts for 45 percent of Afghanistan's Gross Domestic Product and employs 80 percent of its population, Owen said emphasizing the importance of the ADT mission.
Steven Rulli, an analyst and site lead for 3rd Special Forces Group, agreed the mission is important and encouraged the future commanders to do research on the culture of Afghanistan.
"When we bring an American problem to an Afghan problem, what happens?" Rulli asked after talking to the group about the importance of village-stability operations. "It goes away when we go away."
"We have to find Afghan solutions to Afghan problems to ensure it stays when we leave," Rulli concluded.
All the presenters agreed relationships and education were the key to making that happen.
"By educating the ADTs and PRTs on the Afghan initiatives going on right now and the U.S. support for those Afghan initiatives, you establish a clear entrance point in assisting the solution," Rulli said.
The conference is a huge part of that education, said Polly Lancaster, mobilization planner with the 205th Operations Brigade.
Lancaster, who initiated the bi-annual conference three years ago, said as teams demobilized she realized the lessons learned from the ADTs unique missions were being lost.
"I started asking, 'What do you wish someone had told you before you went into Theater,' and the conference naturally evolved as I called people to speak to the teams getting ready to mobilize," she said.
Now both military and civilian governmental agencies contact Lancaster to speak to the teams about what their organization has learned and what programs it has in the various provinces in Afghanistan.
This holistic approach keeps the conference fresh and evolving, explained Lancaster. The most recent conference included Provincial Reconstruction Teams, because they are being partnered in the battle space to improve security and increase success by focusing efforts.
Lt. Col. Thomas Hanley, branch chief for Central Command's Central and South Asia States Branch, said the work being done by ADTs, Village-Stability Operations and PRTs in Afghanistan isn't new; however, the concept of nesting the components "complimentary efforts," is.
"They were working side-by-side, almost independent of one another, now they are working together," he said. "And once they are aware of each other they can be strategic and close the gaps."
Many of those gaps are administrative; the PRTs knowledge of the district and provincial politics help the ADTs navigate the public administration issues involved in developing their agri-business extension, food storage, and irrigation programs.
"There is a range of skills in the low tech category of academics that the ADTs bring, where they start to merge is now you have the provincial governance mechanism blending with the business sector and the academic realm," Hanley said.
This is a natural progression for the Agri-teams, who are composed of joint services as well as Air and National Guard and reserve components.
Air Force Lt. Col. Marchal Magee, commander of the PRT in Paktya Provence from October 2010 to November 2012, agreed nesting the ADT and PRT elements make sense. However, there are disadvantages that the commanders need to understand, he added.
Sometimes the missions don't synchronize.
"That can be a challenge when you only have one SECFOR supporting both teams and both efforts now you're limiting what you can possible getting done," Magee said.
The terrain also is an issue. It can take nearly three hours to get 20 miles.
"Because they're combining the teams now you're going to be even more at a disadvantage because you won't have the freedom of time you need to get the mission done."
Regardless, Magee was still positive about the relationship.
"It was nice to have it as an additional team, as part of our provincial effort, but now it falls under the PRT it can be more efficient in reference to the campaign strategy," he said. "Now they'll be less conflict of missions."
After nearly 11 years in Afghanistan and a deadline to withdraw troops by 2014, everyone agreed it's now time to focus on sustainment.
Col. Timothy E. Newsome, commander of the 205th Infantry Brigade, who's mission it is to train and mobilize ADT, said Soldiers ability to meet those evolving strategies with flexibility and confidence is what makes the Army better and will help ensure the Afghans are able to sustain themselves when we leave.
"You have a tremendous mission, an important one," Maj. Gen. Timothy J. Kadavy, the deputy director of the Army National Guard, told participants via a video teleconference. "You are the exit strategy. We have to leave a country that can sustain itself and you are a key in making that happen."
The 205th Infantry Brigade trains and validates Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers for deployment or other contingency operations and is subordinate to First Army Division East, at Fort Meade, Md. The brigade also trains units of the active Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, along with selected members of the interagency and intergovernmental departments and United States partner nations.