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Royals, Fox Sports Honor Missouri Guard’s Agribusiness Team

By Johnathan Lemons
Special to American Forces Press Service

KANSAS CITY, Mo., July 21, 2009 – The Missouri National Guard’s agribusiness team in Afghanistan will get a touch of home when Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals and Fox Sports Network honor them during the Royals’ Aug. 8 game with the Oakland A’s at Kauffman Stadium here.

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Members of the Missouri National Guard agribusiness development team show off the Kansas City Royals baseball gear sent by the Royals and Fox Sports Network in preparation for an Aug. 8 game at which the Royals and Fox Sports Network will honor them. U.S. Army photo

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Members of the joint Army and Air National Guard team, which is working with farmers in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province to modernize and stimulate the province’s agricultural economy, will watch the game live at 3 a.m. there.

“This is a great opportunity for soldiers, airmen and families to share an American tradition,” said Army Capt. Janet Wunderlich, who is serving with the team in Afghanistan.

Families of the deployed Guard members will receive two free tickets to the game, with the opportunity to purchase additional seats at reduced cost.

“Events like these help with morale, and it makes the family of the deployed servicemember feel a sense of support, too,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Marsha Thompson, family program specialist. “It is like a ‘thank you’ from the servicemember to the family members who support them. The families really get pumped up and excited about these types of events when they know their soldiers and airmen are watching at the same time.”

Fox and the Royals recently sent a care package to the 60-member agribusiness team that included team jerseys and caps for the Guardsmen to wear during the telecast.

“Fox Sports Kansas City and the Kansas City Royals were excited to produce a ‘This One's For You’ telecast in 2009, and the Missouri National Guard was one of the first calls we made,” said David Pokorny, Fox Sports Midwest marketing director. “In January, the public affairs office recommended the [agribusiness team], and we've been working jointly with them since.”

Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen Cotter, the Missouri Air National Guard's chief of staff, will participate in the opening ceremonies at Kauffman Stadium by giving opening remarks thanking the Royals and Kansas City for their support of the military. Fox Sports will show members of the unit on the stadium’s new, big-screen scoreboard, and family members will be able to interact via video teleconference.

“A critical next step was for American Forces Network to clear space on its Aug. 8 schedule for the Royals broadcast,” said Geoff Goldman, media relations manager for Fox Sports Midwest. “Once these key steps were complete, the Royals began planning their in-stadium ceremonies, and we began working with our producers and announcers to discuss ways to further enhance the telecast. Everyone involved considers it a privilege to be able to contribute to making it happen.”

The Missouri team is working on improving infrastructure in the province with projects including solar-powered irrigation, watershed management, crop management and cold-storage facilities. The team recently participated in the grand opening of eight veterinary clinics in districts throughout Nangarhar. The goal of the team is to improve quality of life in the region and usher in an era of self-sufficiency, officials said.

The first Missouri National Guard agribusiness development team was the pilot team for the nation in 2007. The current team is the second team and is scheduled to be replaced with a third team this fall. Other states have followed Missouri’s lead in developing similar teams, including Texas, Indiana, California, Iowa, Kansas, Tennessee, Nebraska, Kentucky, Florida and Oklahoma.

(Johnathan Lemons works in the Missouri National Guard’s public affairs office.)

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Missouri National Guard

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Sgt. Julie Olsen, Army Capt. Janet Wunderlich, and Army Maj. Denise Wilkinson of the Missouri National Guard’s agribusiness development team stand with a member of the Afghan security team in their new Kansas City Royals baseball gear. U.S. Army photo  
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