Building relationships in Kandahar Province
Story by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans, KY ADT 4 Public Affairs NCO
NOTE: Each week kentuckyguard.com publishes stories by or about Kentucky National Guard unit public affairs historian representatives, also known as UPAHRs. This is an additional duty taken on by a Soldier or Airmen with the intent of telling their unit’s story. This is one such story ….
FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan – - Even on the other side of the world, the Kentucky National Guard is helping people. In the case of the Arghandab District in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province, Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 4 is helping empower local leaders to provide sustainable agriculture and business teaching to the area’s residents.
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ADT 4’s mission is the first of its type to teach agriculture and business development in the Kandahar Province of southern Afghanistan.
“If we can make a small difference, it’s still going to make a huge impact here,” said ADT 4’s Chief Warrant Officer Scott Goode, a 53-year-old native of Versailles, Ky. Goode, who is the Arghandab District team leader, had just returned from a preliminary visit with local Arghandab officials from March 25-29, 2012 with his team and a few other ADT 4 members.
“The primary focus of the initial meetings…was to make sure that District official, the DAIL (Director of Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation) understands that we’re transitioning now to help him be a better government official,” Goode said.
“Having them (Afghan government officials) prepared for us to leave, making sure that whatever we do is sustainable by them is probably the key to everything that we do here,” Goode explained. “So, if it has to be small and sustainable, it’s better than huge and unsustainable.”
“It (the first meeting) was very successful,” recalled Sgt. 1st Class Crystal Dunn, a 30-year-old native of Hot Springs, Ark. who resides in Lexington, Ky. Dunn is a project manager for the Arghandab District’s team.
“We were able to somewhat outline their priorities to projects that may need to be assessed first, second, third, fourth, and so forth,” Dunn explained.
“Every meeting we go into brings us more opportunity for projects and more opportunity for education,” said 1st Lt. Wesley Newton, a 26-year-old native of Gainesville, Georgia who lives in Lexington, Ky. Newton functions as liaison officer for the Arghandab District’s team, coordinating between ADT 4, other military units, and various nongovernmental organizations, such as USAID (the U.S. Agency for International Development).
“Our biggest goal here is that, when we leave, to be able to get the Afghans, the DAIL, the local government, and all the people that we work with to be able sustain those projects,” Newton explained. “That way, when we leave, our job’s done.”
“That is something that we do take seriously,” Dunn added. “We want to make sure that when we leave and they don’t have the U.S. to support them, that they are able to maintain it themselves. We’re headed in the right direction.”
According to Dunn, approximately 70 percent of the Arghandab District’s population relies on agriculture as a means of survival.
Being the first extended visit to the Arghandab district, ADT 4’s advisors each offered different insight into their first impressions.
“Meeting the people face-to-face was tremendous, because putting a face with a name and having that rapport on the initial visit is, as we go and visit more, it’s going to be more of a comfortable atmosphere,” Dunn said.
“You kind of see their passion and how much they need our help,” recalled Newton. “It’s kind of rewarding, and will probably be more rewarding when we actually get some projects done.”
“The language barrier was the only problem we really had,” Newton added. “It wasn’t that bad, but there were some cases where we weren’t quite sure what they were trying to say to us (and vice versa).”
“I think that we were successful in getting the message out to the staff and the DAIL himself that we’re not here to just pour money into stuff and leave,” Goode noted. “It’s more of an educate, train and do small projects that are demonstration level projects so they can learn the techniques…maybe even eventually set up a small education and training center.”
“Here, I’m starting to meet people and understand that there are people out there that need our help and genuinely want our help,” Goode added. “And I’m starting to understand their (Afghan) culture is pretty friendly.”
“I really believe that our leadership here is trying…to make sure that when we do something here, we do it right,” Goode concluded.