Coolest Extension Experience
Yesterday I was honored to participate in the coolest experience ever of my Extension career! UNL Extension has been providing agricultural training to soldiers deploying to Afghanistan next month. Their mission is to help the Afghan people become more sustainable with their agricultural production and to empower Afghan people to serve as Extension agents to their local people. For more information, check out the latest edition of Nebraska Farmer Magazine and our Web site.
Agriculture in this area is like turning the clock back 100 years. Wheat seed is sown by hand or with oxen or donkeys. Farm plots are 1 acre or less for the most part and families try to raise enough food to feed themselves. Residue and manure is burned for fuel. Our soldiers have quite a challenge and opportunity ahead of them! If we can teach the people to feed themselves, they hopefully won’t pursue other options of obtaining income such as through the poppy trade.
Because UNL and partners such as NRCS have worked in training the military, they invited us on their Boss Lift-essentially developed to thank employers for supporting their National Guard and Reserve employees during deployments. Dr. Elbert Dickey and I rode in a Chinook helicopter, ate Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s), and watched the soldiers go through exercises such as identifying Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s), humvee rollovers, putting on gas masks, stopping and searching vehicles and people, and weapons firing (we even got to shoot their weapons in a simulated video game!).
Throughout the day, I kept thinking how blessed I was to have this opportunity and to know the team members so well who are going-they are almost like family to me! If I feel that way through the few experiences I’ve had with them, I can’t imagine the bond formed between them while they are away at war. Extra special was the fact that I was a military wife getting to watch my husband perform the training-an opportunity wives just don’t get to partake in. It’s hard to explain the sense of pride, honor, and thankfulness one has in experiencing something like this…I have tears just thinking of it. This truly was the coolest experience I’ve ever had in Extension and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to work with this group of soldiers! I know UNL Extension will do our best to provide reach-back and answer questions they encounter once they get over in Afghanistan!