PHOENIX – “Hope none of you soldiers ate bananas this morning,” said beekeeper Dave Myer to a team of Army Reserve soldiers from the 492nd Civil Affairs Battalion while they were donning their beekeeping protective suits.
“Bees love the scent of bananas,” added Myer.
Myer’s bee farm was one of eight small farm and dairy businesses that civil affairs soldiers from the 492nd visited for detailed site assessment during their February battle assembly.
Many Civil affairs units like the 492nd visits small businesses, electric power plants and even small towns that are in the vicinity of the unit for training that is critical for their missions overseas.
“It’s really hands on,” said Sgt. Raymond Magnussen, a civil affairs specialist for the 492nd. “We are getting the experience and are talking to people outside of our unit, interacting with the community.”
Magnussen, a former supply specialist, now a civil affairs specialist,
trained as a team leader and interacted with Myer about his farm.
“I learned that not only does a bee produce honey but it plays an important role in pollinizing fruit trees as well,” said Magnussen. “My team seems to be very excited about the training and they are having a good time learning about something new.”
The team took their beekeeping suits off then traveled 25 miles outside the Phoenix city limits to assess Crow’s Dairy Farm. To the team’s amazement, the farm welcomed the soldiers with “baas” from over 100 goats rather than “moos” from a cow.
Working with smaller businesses like these is similar to what these soldiers face overseas on deployments.
“It is very important to conduct team directed and team driven training during our battle assembly,” said Maj. Darcy Lowery, the company commander for the 492nd. “It provides the opportunity for our team chiefs and team noncommissioned officers to do what they are doing and expected to do the same downrange in peacekeeping types of missions around the world.”
Sgt. Joel Gutierrez, a civil affairs specialist for the 492nd, led his team to a produce farm just west of the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. As planes flew overhead, Team 3 assessed the Horny Toad Farm where dozens of different type of vegetables are grown.
“It is great for us to practice our civil affairs skill sets and come out and do an assessment on an agricultural site,” said Gutierrez. “We are determining the needs of the site and it is good practice for what we do overseas.
Gutierrez, who works for the Maricopa Sheriff’s Office enjoys the face-to-face training.
“This is a good way for us to see how agricultures work in an efficient matter and look at it more with a critical eye. What you learn in school is one thing but getting out and starting to do these practical exercise well help us with future deployments,” he said.
Lowery feels the more they train with the local populace the more comfortable her soldiers will be.
“The ability to reach out to the locals and being comfortable in talking to people in an industry that they are not familiar with is important,” Lowery said.