We salute the members of the Missouri National Guard's agribusiness development teams for exceptional service in Afghanistan.
Missouri's sixth and final team was deployed last year for what Maj. Gen. Steve Danner, adjutant general, characterized as a "unique deployment."
Among the unique aspects was an attack by insurgents at a forward operating base. Thankfully, no team members died or suffered life-threatening injuries, although one Afghani security guard was killed.
The teams' mission was to provide and promote sustainable practices for agriculture, irrigation and livestock in the country's Nangarhar Province.
Their duties were: enhance the regional governing authority's ability to deliver a secure food supply; educate and train extension agents; provide agricultural projects for Taliban fighters ready to surrender their weapons; and establish a link among the Nangarhar University, the regional governing authority, research centers and agribusiness to increase awareness and productivity.
• Assist in purchasing a peanut roaster for a Jalalbad nut warehouse.
• Conduct blacksmith training.
• Help 20 families establish an apiary business to supply honey to a local manufacturer.
• Provide irrigation and a water tank for students and faculty at a high school.
• Connect more than 100 local businesses, co-ops and farmers to a process for obtaining loans.
• Provide enhancements that doubled the output of a fish farm.
These activities would be commendable even in optimum conditions, which were absent amid hostilities where team members also manned guard towers and participated in defending operating bases.
Despite the duress of warfare, the teams helped Afghanis help themselves.
The Guard members provided instruction and a foothold in sustaining irrigation, fish farming and food production and processing.
Referencing the final deployment, Danner said: "It's not the end of an era, but it's the beginning. I couldn't be more proud of what Missouri's citizen soldiers and airmen have accomplished."
The war in Afghanistan will be won when peace-loving people are empowered with the knowledge and tools to live freely and reject the insurgents.
Providing that empowerment is a commendable accomplishment.