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Farmer-soldiers use education as a weapon in the war on terror

—Stories & Photos
By Douglas Wissing
Special Correspondent

Out in Afghanistan’s violent borderlands, Hoosier farmer-soldiers are fighting to win hearts and minds.

The Indiana National Guard 5-19th Agribusiness Development Team (ADT) is the fifth Hoosier unit deployed to Khost Province, a mountainous, insurgency-wracked region.

Primarily composed of agricultural specialists with farm backgrounds, the ADT partners with the Afghan government to improve the lives of subsistence-level farmer families, who typically scratch out a few hundred dollars in annual income from less than 3 acres. Under the command of Lt. Col. Dave Roberts, who was raised on a farm and has one near Madison, Ind., the ADT is working to bring peace to this nation devastated by more than three decades of war.

As the U.S. military forces withdraw from still-turbulent Afghanistan, the 5-19th ADT emphasizes mentoring Afghan provincial officials in governance, administration and agriculture. It’s a challenging mission: With chaotic Afghanistan lacking rule of law, many Afghan officials are corrupt.

“Education is our project,” Maj. John Lake said. A Purdue graduate who serves as the ag team’s officer in charge, Lake grew up in Grant County on a farm near Swayzee. “Education is the most important thing we do,” Lake said. “The Taliban can’t take it away from them.”

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