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Zabul ADT Friends and Partners December 6th, 2011

Dear Friends,

Zabul Province, Afghanistan eric.ahlness@afghan.swa.army.mil 20 W. 12th St. on Twitter @ZabulADT St. Paul, MN 55124 T 612.812.3070 eric.ahlness@us.army.mil

We have completed our first full month in Afghanistan. During that time we’ve learned and confirmed our mission with the previous team, established our permanent quarters, and have been focusing on the mission ahead. Our first order of business has been to make sure we have a good understanding of our province so that our training for Afghan farmers and our guidance to the Afghan Agricultural staff addressees the right priorities and issues. We are fortunate that many of our partner organizations have been serving in Afghanistan for quite some time. As such, our plans and actions benefit from their experience and knowledge. We very recently completed a veterinary and marketing seminar in the Arghandab valley. The Arghandab valley is known as the breadbasket of the province, and is an important economic pathway. Support and improvement of herds and crops is important to increase security in the district and province. During the Seminar, Zabul DAIL (Department of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock) gave classes on veterinary practices, agricultural marketing, and vaccinated more than 400 animals from seven area villages.

CPT Brian Collins assists with animal vaccinations during a Vet Seminar in the Arghandab Valley

We also firmly established our presence in the capital of Zabul province, Qalat. We have made numerous visits to the nursery, the Department of Woman Affairs (DOWA) compound to develop the relationship between our Female Engagement Team (FET) and this group, which is much more vulnerable to food insecurity. We’ve also conducted missions in the Qalat Bazaar to learn the wholesale and retail market dynamics and other agribusiness ventures in the local area. Additionally, we are very fortunate to be able to partner with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) stationed in Qalat. They have been in the province since early summer and have a good read on the pulse of the community. We will be working closely with them, as they work the governance and developmental issues for the other functions of provincial and district government.

CPT Patrick Foley gets in the holiday spirit, posing with the turkey fashioned out of paper plates by the dining hall staff

Other projects we’re currently working on include irrigation projects in the western part of the province, continuation and expansion of the beekeeping and bee distribution project initiated by previous ADTs, as well as additional veterinary and agricultural seminars throughout the area. Finally, we’ve also made some time to get in the holiday spirit, beginning with celebrating Thanksgiving here on the FOB. Although we still conducted missions, we did have an opportunity to host a shooting competition. The soldiers from Mississippi informed us of a local tradition revolving around shooting. In the old days it was a competition to shoot turkeys for dinner thus the name, “Turkey Shoot” for our event.


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20 W. 12th St. Zabul Province, Afghanistan St. Paul, MN 55124 eric.ahlness@afghan.swa.army.mil T 612.812.3070on Twitter @ZabulADT eric.ahlness@us.army.mil

SGT Jon Hansen maintains security during a foot patrol of the Qalat Bazaar

In recent years, the spirit of the competition has remained, but the targets have changed. Rather than shooting turkeys, we conducted a precision target shoot at 100 meters using our iron sights and a combat marksmanship round. In the combat round the shooter performed ten squat thrust exercises in full combat gear (about 70 lbs), ran 50 meters to shoot a target from the standing position, run another 25 meters for a kneeling shoot, run yet another 25 meters for a prone unsupported fire. The shooters shot two rounds at each target. The shooter with the most hits and with the fastest time was the winner. Fast was fine but precision was finer. The winner of the precision shoot was Sergeant First Class Brian McFadden, the winner of the combat shoot was SGT Jeremy Walley, and the overall winner with the best combined placement was SSG Steven Guidry. In closing, I’d like to relate a story one Soldier on the team shared with me. During a recent mission ADT team members visited a small rural village to talk about livestock, crops, and to conduct the all-important meeting with village elders. As this Soldier was not part of the engagement he pulled security on the perimeter along an ancient stone fence overlooking the village’s almond orchard. The Afghan kids, curious and excited, approached the soldiers and begged for “pens” or “chocolate” (Afghans think all candy is chocolate). The only two words they know, and not by coincidence the two things the children know every US Soldiers carry at all times. A note on Afghan children – they have been brought up in an atmosphere where military personnel often hand out candy and other small, inexpensive items. As such they are constantly yelling and reaching for these handouts and can be quite aggressive about it, to the point of reaching in pockets. Tired of the boring adult meeting, the crowed of kids made their way over to the Soldier on the stone fence and made the obligatory demand for candy and pens. “No pens, no candy” said the soldier, “sorry.” Many of the kids ran off but a few remained. The Soldier sat on the stone fence and a few of the kids sat down next to him. A small boy sat next to the Soldier and reached out his hand as if to give a high five – a universal American gesture that has been gifted to Afghan kids. The Soldier reached out and slapped the kid five, but a strange thing happened. The little boy, no more than three or four, didn’t remove his hand. Instead he left it there and the two held hands for a while, looking at the orchard until, inevitably, the kids took off to find more exciting entertaining.

Afghan boys from the Arghandab valley, looking as mischievous as any kids.

Deployments are difficult and it would be wrong to suggest that there aren’t frustrating moments within the structure of the military or with the war we are fighting. That being said, every Soldier here has had similar experiences both good and bad. As we approach Christmas it’s important for us to acknowledge that as frustrated as we may become we are here for a good and just purpose, a purpose that will allow us to make a positive difference in the lives of hundreds and perhaps thousands of Afghans. Though it’s difficult to spend the Holidays far away from home and the families we love, it’s important that especially at this time we remember the good that will certainly come from our mission.


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Thank you for all you do to support our team, and a special thanks to the ADT families without whom our mission here would not be possible. From all of us, merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Zabul Province, Afghanistan eric.ahlness@afghan.swa.army.mil 20 @ZabulADT W. 12th St. on Twitter St. Paul, MN 55124 T 612.812.3070 eric.ahlness@us.army.mil

Eric D. Ahlness Colonel, Infantry Zabul Agricultural Development Team Commanding

Friends and Partners Letter 6  

ZADT Commander gives a holiday upate as the team completes its first month in Zabul Province Afghanistan.

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