What is in this article?:
- Agriculture Development Team One -- largely composed of Mid-Southerners -- recount year of Afghanistan deployment.
- Focused on updating country's agricultural practices.
- Barriers numerous, threat of violence near constant.
DAVID PAUL HAFER, left, and fellow agriculture team-member inspect wheat grown in southern Afghanistan.
Despite barely escaping some “hairy situations,” Hafer came to admire the Afghans. He says they are “toughest people I’ve ever seen. You could see it in their eyes. They are incredibly resilient.
“We’d be 10,000 feet up a mountain, shivering in the freezing cold and barely able to stand it with all this special clothing on. The locals would be standing outside in sandals, without coats, smoking cigarettes. We’d just shake our heads and think ‘How on earth is that possible?’”
Hafer has shaken hands with the Taliban. “They typically dress better than the locals, look healthier, and are usually bigger. You could tell they wanted to do us in, and would have if they could get around all our guns. They knew we’d smoke their heads.”
The team also worked with many Mujahedeen fighters that took on the Soviets in the 1980s. One, Rosie Mohammed, had a great-great-grandfather who was a king.
Rosie, says Hafer, “had the stroke and had been one of the bigwigs when they were fighting the Russians. It was gentlemen like Rosie that had stepped up to the Taliban and said ‘we’re sick of this. You won’t let our kids go to school. You’ve held us down and we’re tired of being stupid. You’ve had your chance and now we’re going to work with the Americans.’
“And Rosie’s village drove the Taliban out. It can be done.
“The mission we were on was so important because the whole country revolves around agriculture. And it’s not over -- the mission is ongoing and we need to support it.”
The original agriculture team was replaced by a second from Arkansas: AR ADT 02.
“We were glad to see their faces after the long year and tried to set them up for success … so they could continue to execute the missions that worked,” says Taylor. “We didn’t want them wasting time trying to do things that others back home had told them worked. ... We helped shape the way that the Coalition forces approached the winning of hearts and minds and really helped (the Afghans) build up agriculture, something that would last long after we were gone.”