64 Kentucky soldiers head to Afghanistan - WDRB 41 Louisville News

64 Kentucky soldiers head to Afghanistan

Dozens of Kentucky National Guard members are heading to Afghanistan for a mission that marks many firsts. Instead of fighting the war on terror, they'll be helping to repair the country and its people, one seed at a time.

There were final pictures and hugs good-bye as members of Kentucky's National Guard and Air Guard gathered at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, to embark on a mission to literally re-grow Afghanistan's economy.

The 64 soldiers and airmen will make up the Kentucky National Guard's Agribusiness Development team for Afghanistan, the first joint mission ever.

"Our team was hand selected, base on agricultural and engineer skill sets that are not found in just one unit," said Major John Holmes, KY National Guard.

In a country known just as much for planted mines as planted crops, the soldiers and airmen will teach residents the skills they need to re-build Afghanistan's agriculture industry, which makes up 80 percent of its economy.

"By helping establish and invigorate the Afghan farming tradition and rebuilding their agricultural infrastructure, these troops will bring stability to an otherwise war-torn nation," said Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini, KY Adjutant General.

The group includes a unique mix of people with a wealth of agricultural experience. those who've worked in orchards, beef and dairy production and hay and feed mills and veterinary medicine.  They hope to turn around a nation plagued by food shortages and malnutrition and restore the health of Afghanistan's people and its economy.

"We are fighting for the Afghan people, not against them.  Our focus is on their welfare.  And, we will build the trust and support necessary for their success," said Col. Michael Farley, KY National Guard.

The team will first head to Camp Atterbury in Indiana for several weeks of training, before deploying to Afghanistan.

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