By Maj. Penny Zamora, 157th Infantry BrigadeFebruary 22, 2013
Despite a record cold winter, a Wisconsin National Guard Agribusiness Development Team recently completed training and deployed to Afghanistan.
"The Wisconsin ADT is highly motivated and well trained, and has experience built in with several Soldiers who have been deployed previously, " said Sgt. 1st Class Javier Font, of Cottage Grove, Wis. Font is the medic assigned to the team.
Trainer mentors assigned to First Army Division East ensured the team was prepared for all aspects of the ADT mission. The all-encompassing training ranges from land management to primitive farming techniques to providing security.
"The 157th Infantry Brigade provides realistic and relevant, complex operational environment based training, focused on providing adaptive individuals, units, and leaders for combatant commander," said Col. Brandt Deck, commander of the 157th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East.
The ADTs support Afghanistan district leaders by teaching, advising, and facilitating agribusiness opportunities. With an ultimate goal of increasing stability by building the economy of local areas, the teams help local leaders coordinate with a variety of governmental and nongovernmental organizations to request funding and other resources such as seed and water management needs.
The teams specifically learn primitive farming techniques and other techniques to increase agriculture productivity, regenerate agribusiness, improve resource management, and promote private sector commerce.
The Wisconsin ADT's unique composition includes two Airmen serving alongside Soldiers. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chontelle Southworth, Pardeeville, Wis., a veterinary technician, plans to work with local Afghanistan farmers to care for livestock. He said he also hopes to lay the groundwork to introduce artificial insemination in animals to local leaders.
Serving in two previous deployments to Iraq as an F-16 crew chief, this is Southworth's first deployment to Afghanistan as a veterinary technician.
"The Army training is totally different; I've never done some of this type of training before. This is a good group, and they have made me feel welcome; it is a cohesive unit," said Southworth.
The 2-289th Field Artillery Battalion, 157th Infantry Brigade, the primary mentor trainer for the Wisconsin ADT included cultural awareness training as well. The unit coordinated with Afghanistan interpreters to provide tips during training scenarios.
This type of training isn't available to units in their states, said Lt. Col. Joseph L. Leardi, 2-289th Field Artillery Battalion commander.
Training with the interpreters emphasizes the cultural aspects of their mission, Leardi said. The interpreters are encouraged to provide tips on how to improve the relationship between the local leaders and the ADT Soldiers. One of the most important tips, -- not using a business first approach -- includes telling Soldiers to slow down and ask about the local leader's family and about the local area.
"Our unit does a great job of being creative and taking the initiative to reach out to resources to make the training as realistic as possible," said Leardi.
The 2-289th Field Artillery Battalion also video records the ADT training scenarios. This tool provides a useful and objective view of the training.
"We are here to help the ADT commander meet their training objectives. We are here to help them see themselves," said Leardi.
During an exercise to resolve a conflict between local leaders and Afghanistan police during a key leader exercise, Sgt. 1st Class Carlos M. Rivera, Trainer Mentor, 2-345th Training Support Battalion, 157th Infantry Brigade observed and evaluated the action. He said he was pleased with their performance not only in working with local leaders but also with their technical skills.
"The Wisconsin team is very bright, and they know what they are doing with regard to water management, veterinary science, and agriculture," said Rivera.