Afghan professors visit Hoosier state

Indiana National Guard Headquarters
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Lowry

Date: 02.01.2013
Posted: 02.14.2013 10:29
News ID: 101991
Full Circle

PORTLAND, Ind. - They've come full circle.

In 2010, an Indiana National Guard Soldier, and teacher, from Montpelier, Ind., deployed with the 3-19th Agribusiness Development Team to Afghanistan. The development teams consist of Guard Soldiers and Airmen who typically rely on their civilian-acquired skills in agriculture, business and teaching more so than their military-acquired skills. Overseas, they wear their Soldier uniforms and body armor, but draw upon their citizen skills to engage, mentor and instruct the Afghan people.

Maj. Jeremy Gulley, executive officer for 2nd Battalion, 151st Infantry Regiment, was the 3-19th's education officer, and he has 17 years of experience in Indiana’s public education system.

“Our vision was to get as close to the people as possible and focus on the youth,” said Gulley of his team’s mission in Afghanistan. “Personally our experience and mine was working with people to have a lasting, positive outcome, not just build things, but invest in people. I think after we leave, there will be lasting good that can come from the work we did in the Indiana National Guard and our ADTs.”

Hoosier troops who volunteer for an ADT mission go back to school before their Afghan deployment.

At Purdue University they learn about irrigation, crop production, pest management, soils assessment, livestock management, nutrition and the differences between Afghan and Indiana farms. Additionally, the troops learn cultural and language skills at Indiana University.

They've come full circle.

It was the Purdue ADT workshops that led to Gulley meeting Jerry Peters, an agricultural professor.

"His connection to education, as well as mine ... we sort of connected," said Peters, a professor of agriculture education at Purdue. "And then we started communicating, and trying to see how we at Purdue and agricultural education could then be of assistance to the effort that he was having there in Khost Province."

Peters corresponded via email with Gulley while the 3-19th ADT was in Afghanistan.

Peters is steeped in Afghan agricultural and teaching that country's youth. He visited Afghanistan in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2012; he hosted agricultural workshops at two Afghan universities, and he also helped develop agricultural high school curriculum.

Indiana sent its first ADT to Afghanistan in 2009. Since that time, the agribusiness troops moved from training the farmers directly to training the trainers, the professors who will then impart that knowledge to the farmers.

“I had the opportunity and the privilege to serve on behalf of the people in Indiana and the Indiana National Guard to help support good people. We accomplished something positive,” said Gulley.

Through the deployment and training the trainers, Gulley met and became a good friend of an Afghan agricultural professor, Moqbal, who prefers not to be known by his full name.

They've come full circle.

For eight weeks Moqbal, with about a dozen other Afghan professors, came to Indiana through Purdue University's International Programs in Agriculture Office, which is the host institution for the Afghan Junior Faculty Development Program.

The goals of the program are to broaden and enhance the professors' skill sets.

At the Jay County High School, the Afghan professors saw firsthand a rural Midwest high school, its facilities and the students' learning experiences.

For a teacher, Guardsman and Afghan professor, the site visit to Jay County High School allowed them to become reacquainted.

Moqbal said he was glad to see Gulley again. Standing in the high school's greenhouse, he said the facilities were outstanding. He admired the depth and breadth of the equipment and resources the U.S. students have available to them.

Just like the Indiana Guardsmen who imparted their agricultural knowledge to the Afghan people, it will now be up to these Afghan professors to share the knowledge they've learned in the Hoosier state.

“When you work hard and have access to knowledge, you can do good things,” said Gulley. “Education itself brings people together, and this exchange will help broaden that exposure in Afghanistan and Indiana.”

They've come full circle.