On Thursday the 6th of January, my team and I assisted men of US Aid and the USDA in delivering seeds and fertilizer to farmers of families of Ali-Azi. Below is an article that I wrote and submitted for publication. One of the highlights were all of the children who showed up. It is amazing that whenever we stop some place there may be five kids milling around. Within moments of us getting out of trucks it seems like 50 kids will often appear out of no where. As we were getting ready to leave the kids started getting more courage, and started playing a game of touch the American. I was the American that they were getting courage to touch. It was a fun day, and a good mission.
National Guard Soldiers assist in Handing out Seed and Fertilizer
U.S. Soldiers from the Minnesota and Nevada Army National Guard assisted representatives of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US Aid is passing out wheat seed and fertilizer to Afghan citizens of the village of Ali-azi in the Chemtal district of Balk province, just west of the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in Northern Afghanistan recently.
The USDA and US Aid had previously done a much larger aid mission to the district, however due to conflicts and tensions in the area some families missed out of the seed opportunity. On this day the goal was to attempt to help out some of the farmers and their families that did not receive the earlier push of supplies.
The National Guard soldiers, a combined force of Operational Mentor Liaison Team 47 (OMLT) of the Minnesota National Guard mentors to the 4th Kandak (battalion) 1st Brigade 209th Corp Afghan National Army and 137th Military Police of the Nevada National Guard volunteered to work together and escort the aid workers and their locally contracted truck of supplies to the remote village.
The village is approximately 30 kilometers west of Camp Spann, where both of the Guard units are based, and took almost an hour and half for the crews in their M-ATV armored vehicles to travel the distance. Much of the journey to the isolated village is on an extremely rough, bumpy and dusty road, so travel was slow.
Upon a arrival to the small collection of Afghan mud style houses, several people quickly appeared as they had been awaiting the arrival of the truck carrying the seeds and fertilizer. The Chemtal District governor had coordinated with the local farmers, and had done work preparing for the seeds; which was something that the aid workers had been hoping for.
The seeds were purchased for the Afghans with US Aid dollars, however to average farmers the appearance is that Afghan government may have purchased the bags. In order to help establish more legitimacy in the Afghan government, western aid workers are mentoring, encouraging, and excited to see local leaders lead.
As the truck was being unloaded, of the more than 180 40-pound bags of seed and fertilizer, the district governor, alongside the US Aid workers, held a Jirga with all the farmers present. The almost 30 men gathered sat in a circle, drank chai (tea) and listened to their local leader and US Aid workers speak about the need for continued hard work for progress in Afghanistan.
Nearby the National Guard soldiers pulled security to ensure safety of all in attendance, while some also played with the many curious children who had followed their fathers and were also curious. Many of the children, with the few words of English they knew, asked the soldiers for the pens or anything else that we would share.