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Face of Defense: Guardsman Helps Afghan Farmers

By Army Capt. Peter Shinn
Iowa National Guard

CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind., Aug. 3, 2010 – For Army Sgt. John Larsen, a hydrologist with the Missouri National Guard, going to Afghanistan for a year to improve that nation's ability to feed its people is a calling.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Sgt. John Larsen, a hydrologist, will deploy to Afghanistan as part of the Missouri National Guard's agribusiness development team. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Peter Shinn

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Larsen, a hydrologist, is deploying as part of the Missouri Guard's fourth agribusiness development team. He also deployed with Missouri’s second rotation in the program, in which Guard members with civilian farming experience deploy to help in advancing Afghanistan’s agricultural economy.

"He does like Afghanistan," said Army Master Sgt. Stephen Bradley, noncommissioned officer in charge of the team’s agricultural section. More importantly, Bradley pointed out, Larsen's experience in Afghanistan already has proven invaluable as the team prepares here for its upcoming deployment.

"He knows the area," Bradley said. "He knows the people. He knows their attitude, their wants. So, yeah, he's been very, very helpful."

In his civilian career, Larsen has worked with U.S. farmers on irrigation issues, and he's done the same during his military career with Afghan farmers. But working with Afghan farmers, he said, presents special challenges.

"There's no tractors," he said. "The best they can do is maybe oxen if they have a little bit of money. Everything is done by hand."

Every Missouri agribusiness development team has gone to Nangahar province in east-central Afghanistan. Agricultural production there includes wheat, corn, vegetables and citrus fruits, all water-intensive crops. On his previous tour, Larsen spent most of his time building check-dams to capture some of the water that runs through Nangahar, and he intends to do more of the same in the year ahead.

"If it works, stick with it," Larsen said. "The more water we can get these people, the more prosperous they're going to be. They're an agricultural province, and the more I can get them, the better they'll be on that."

The Missouri team is expected to deploy this month.


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