By 1st Lt. Joe Trovato
Wisconsin National Guard
MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin National Guard’s 97th Agribusiness Development Team returned to their families in a May 10 homecoming ceremony in Madison, Wis.
The 11-member unit made up of soldiers and airmen returned to Wisconsin after four months serving in Afghanistan.
Originally mobilized in January to help Afghanistan’s Kunar province establish a sustainable agricultural infrastructure, the unit’s mission changed almost as soon as they arrived. As part of the overall American drawdown in Afghanistan, the U.S. military is in the process of transferring more security responsibilities to their Afghan counterparts, and as a result, the unit’s role shifted from agriculture to prepping the province for the withdrawal of the allied provincial reconstruction team.
The unit was originally slated to spend an entire year in Afghanistan, but the unit left its mark nonetheless.
“To the 97th ADT, I can’t be anymore proud of what we did downrange given the time that we had,” ADT commander Capt. Craig Giese said during the homecoming ceremony. “Basically, once we hit ground, we could have just rolled up and did absolutely nothing. We knew once we got there that our time was more than likely going to be short, but I’m very proud of our soldiers and airmen for what they accomplished.”
Though the unit’s agricultural mission was cut short, it still helped Kunar name a leader for its Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock. It also worked to coordinate veterinary vaccination schedules and continued facilitating a relationship between Kunar’s Said Jamaluddin University and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
The ADT also found success in teaching hands-on classes on fruit-drying, beekeeping, and mini root cellars.
“A difficult mission, so what did the Army do? They reached out to the Wisconsin Army National Guard right here in Wisconsin, because they had a hard job to do,” said Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar, Wisconsin’s Adjutant General. “It wasn’t an easy job, so they chose just a handful of the very best. And you went over there, and even though they gave you a path and deviated from it immediately, the constant of your professionalism was on display.”
That professionalism manifested itself in the form of flexibility. Ultimately, most of the unit’s 11 members were integrated into the provincial reconstruction team and forward operating base staff duty positions.
As a result, the ADT returned to the Badger State with 11 Army Commendation Medals and three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.