Thursday, October 30, 2014
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Apr 16

Written by: Diana West
Monday, April 16, 2012 5:20 AM 

US service members preparing to deploy to the Afghanistan war zone learn proper tree pruning techniques.

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Welcome to "Agricultural Development for Afghanistan Pre-Deployment Training" (or ADAPT -- cute!), Uncle $ucker's latest stupid, totally wasteful, life-and-limb-risking idea for taming the Afghan beast via agricultural improvement. We already tried that, embarking on a massive, thirty-plus-year effort to modernize the Helmand Valley, to create "an America in Asia," between 1946 and 1979. It was a total failure.

Naturally, we continue to repeat the policy blunder -- only this time while fighting a war.

From the Sac Bee:

When Sgt. 1st Class Darrell Rowe's Army bosses told him they were sending him for a week of beekeeping and tree pruning in California's fertile Central Valley, he was irked.

"My first reaction was, what the hell would I be doing with agriculture?" said Rowe, 32. "What does a combat man have to do with crops?"

STOP: Behold the natural reaction. What the hell would a Sgt. 1st Class -- with two prior war tours -- preparing to deploy to a war zone be doing with agriculture, indeed!

Familiarizing soon-to-be deployed service members like Rowe with basic information about Afghanistan's crops and farming traditions is precisely the point of a new one-week training program developed by the federal Agriculture Department. It's a boot camp where soldiers are more likely to learn about manure than about grenade launchers.

Military officials send recruits from across the country to Fresno because it shares many agroclimatic characteristics with Afghanistan – fertile valleys, semi-arid plains and mountains – and can serve as a kind of geographical laboratory.

"We can replicate on our demonstration farm exactly the types of conditions these troops will find on the ground," said Bill Erysian, director of Agricultural Development for Afghanistan Pre-Deployment Training, or Adapt, a program based at California State University, Fresno. And, with the exception of Afghanistan's opium poppy production, the two locales grow nearly all the same crops. ...

And, with the exception of President Lincoln's assassination, John Wilkes Booth's performance was admirable.

Since 2002, the United States has spent more than $1 billion on Afghanistan's agricultural sector, in part to create markets and options for farmers other than growing opium poppies. Financed by a $2.9 million grant from the Agriculture Department, the Adapt training codifies what had been ad-hoc efforts by various branches of the American military to train recruits in agriculture. Some of that earlier training occurred in locations bearing less likeness to Afghanistan, like Wisconsin.

The grant is one of several the Agriculture Department has made to land-grant colleges in the Central Valley in recent years, tapping into the region's farming expertise. The department gave more than $16 million to a consortium of universities led by the University of California, Davis, to help build up Afghanistan's agricultural extension system and create an online repository and smartphone application called e-Afghan Ag. The site and app provide information for civilians and combat troops trying to find solutions to agricultural problems they encounter in Afghanistan.

Smartphone apps??? E-Afghan Arg.

In late March, about 25 recruits from across the military – including members of the National Guard, Army Reserve and Army Civil Affairs – spent a week in Fresno learning the basics of subsistence agriculture, like how to keep vegetables from spoiling without refrigeration and how to transplant grape cuttings.

Wearing body armor.

"We're not going to make anyone a farmer in five days," said Ryan Brewster, the Agriculture Department's Afghanistan desk officer. "But what we can do is teach them about agriculture, and why it's important to the average Afghan."

If the average Afghan don't already know, he ain't gonna learn.

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Copyright 2012 by Diana West