Friday, June 11, 2021

June 11, 2011: The Georgia National Guard’s 201st RSG Assumes Agribusiness Development Mission in Afghanistan


By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard


The 201st Regional Support Group Agribusiness Development Team 1 stands information beside the Nevada National Guard's ADT at FOB Shank
June 11, 2011. Photo by Spc. Christopher Hall.

On a blisteringly hot day at Forward Operating Base Shank in the heart of Afghanistan’s Logar Province, nearly 60 Georgia National Guard Soldiers of the 201st Regional Support Group Agribusiness Development Team-1 officially assumed the mission of helping Afghan Farmers and communities from the Nevada National Guard June 11, 2011

“We are honored and privileged to be the first,” said Col. Bill Williams, III, commander of the first Georgia ADT to mobilize to Afghanistan. “We look forward not only to continuing Nevada’s Work, but passing on what we learn to the two Georgia Agribusiness Development Teams that will follow in our footsteps.”[1]

Colonel Bill Williams III, commander of Georgia’s 201st ADT-1, and his senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Randall Parker, mark the first day of
Georgia’s assumption of the agribusiness mission from the Nevada National Guard’s ADT in a ceremony at Forward Operating Base Shank in
Southeastern Afghanistan. Photo by Spc. Christopher Hall

Agribusiness Development Teams, or ADTs, were specially trained units comprised of National Guard Soldiers with backgrounds in agriculture who mentored Afghans in farm practices, food storage and preservation, animal health and many other fields. The first Army National Guard ADT deployed to Afghanistan in February 2008 and augmented provincial reconstruction team efforts in Jalalabad.[2]

University of Georgia professor and entomologist Keith Delaplane (right) educates Soldiers of the 201st and 265th ADTs on beekeeping techniques
and honey production in Athens, Ga. Feb 25, 2011. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Roy Henry

The journey of ADT-1 began in 2010 as the unit initiated an extensive and diverse training regimen in topics as varied as combat operations to irrigation practices. The team was comprised of infantry, engineers, veterinarians, scientists and Soldiers with civilian experience in farming. In the months leading up to deployment, ADT-1 received instruction from the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. The UGA training included beekeeping practices, animal care, horticulture and other related subjects. The Soldiers had high praise for the training provided by UGA and CAES staff.

“Because of what they provided us, we’re afforded a great opportunity to show the world that not only do we operate on the battlefield as combatants but that we are humanitarians seeking to help our fellow man make a better place for himself, his family, community and nation,” said Col. Williams during a Feb. 18, 2011 block of instruction.[3]

Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers of the 201st RSG ADT-1 move down a steep hill into the Khoshi valley in November 2011.
Photo by Sgt. Christopher Hall

While the team’s agriculture specialists trained to help Afghan farmers, Soldiers of the ADT’s security platoon trained to provide security for team operations. Many of the Soldiers of the SECFOR platoon had recently returned from combat operations in Afghanistan with the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team or had previous experience in Iraq. For others, it would be their first overseas deployment. Under the leadership of 2nd Lt. William Westrip, the SECFOR platoon drilled in marksmanship, close-quarter engagement techniques and stress-fire drills administered by Staff Sgt. Matthew Rice.[4] The training was conducted to ensure that regardless of previous combat experience, all team members would perform proficiently in coordinated security operations.

While the 201st RSG provided a core of Soldiers for the mission, many of ADT’s members came from units across the state. Sergeant Carmen Benson, a technical engineer with the 877th Engineer Company was selected to serve as a soil specialist. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Benson combined her background in agricultural education and her technical engineer training in field and laboratory testing in anticipation of assisting the team with questions about soil conservation methods.

Georgia National Guard Sgt. Carmen Benson, horticulture specialist Ga. ADT-1 demonstrates one method of seed germination as extension agents and
agricultural line directors watch and replicate the procedures Sept. 21 2011 in Maidan Shar, Afghanistan. 

In addition to combat and mentor training, Soldiers of the ADT completed 80-hours of cultural training and language emersion at the Georgia Army National Guard Language Training Center in January 2011. The Soldiers were introduced to the languages of Dari and Pashto as well as Afghan food, customs and culture by instructors of the Language Training Center and Defense Languages Institute.[5]

Soldiers of the 201st RSG ADT-1 prepare to raise a University
of Georgia flag that was presented to the team by the UGA CAES. 
On April 25, 2011, ADT-1 departed Fort Gordon, Ga.  on the first leg of their deployment. Prior to ADT’s departure, CAES Dean J. Scott Angle and Assistant Dean for Extension Dr. Steve Brown presented the team with a UGA flag to remind them of home while they were in Afghanistan.[6] The Riverdale-based VFW Post No. 3650 in Riverdale, presented the command team of Williams and  Command Sgt. Maj. Randal Parker with a Georgia flag flown over the capitol in Atlanta in honor of the ADT.

After saying goodbye to family and friends. The Soldiers flew to Camp Atterbury, In. where they trained for more than month before deploying to Afghanistan. Over the course of two weeks, ADT-1 trained with the Nevada National Guard’s ADT at FOB Shank before assuming responsibility for the mission June 11.

The 201st ADT swiftly put their training to the test reaching out to the Afghan people in Logar Province. In Kabul, 1st Lt. Clair Cvetkovski of the ADT’s Women’s Initiative Training Team met with the Logar director of Women’s Affairs to discuss upcoming projects and team capabilities. By August ADT personnel joined USAID personnel and Afghan farmers for the inaugural meeting of the Mohammad Agha Wheat Seed Association which was established to improve crop yields.

First Lt. Claire Cvetkovski, officer-in-charge of the ADT Women's Initiative
 Training Team meets with the Logar director of women's affairs. 
In the waning months of summer, ADT-1 developed training programs to assist the Bamyan Directorate of Agriculture and Livestock. Captain James Partamian, the ADT engineer operations officer provided training in map reading for DAIL officials while other ADT members conducted a ribbon cutting ceremony for a cool-storage facility in the Baraki Barak district. The facility was of vital importance to the district as provided a means for farmers to store crops for months after the harvest and provide food security through the harsh winter.

In September 2011, Benson conducted a seed quality class for 25 Afghan farmers. Reflecting on the experience, Benson observed that the Guard had provided her the opportunity to blend her military and civilian experience.

“The great thing about the Guard is that I could still go to college and study agriculture and begin my career while serving in the military,” said Benson in a 2012 interview with Georgia Neighbor’s Magazine.[7]

By October, Logar’s mountains were showing signs of snow heralding the approaching winter. Nevertheless, the Soldiers of the ADT continued to work with Afghan farmers and agencies. The team’s Women’s Initiative Team had trained local women on jarring fresh fruits and vegetables. The Afghan women who had participated in the training then reached out to other communities to share the knowledge they had acquired.

Colonel Bill Williams III and Command Sgt. Major Randall Parker, command team of ADT-1 serve Christmas dinner to Georgia National Guard Soldiers in
Logar Province on Christmas Day 2011. Photo by Sgt. Christopher Hall

Christmas day found ADT Soldiers gathered for fellowship miles from family and home. Col. Williams and Command Sgt. Major Parker served hot meals and the Soldiers emptied the contents of stockings that had been arranged around a Christmas tree. A candlelight service featured carols and hymns as well as fellowship, part of the age-old tradition of service in foreign lands far from home that has been the mark of military service for centuries.

A patrol of Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers of the 201st RSG ADT-1 moves out in Logar Province in February 2012. Photo by Sgt. Christopher Hall

Snow did not stop the 201st ADT, but it did provide happy diversions in the form of snowball fights, sledding down inclines at the FOB and the building of snowmen. On Feb. 10, 2012, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited FOB Shank, spoke with Soldiers and presented awards. Among the Soldiers recognized was Georgia Army National Guard Spc. Robert Schrader of Dallas, Ga. who received the Army Commendation Medal from Dempsey. Schrader was recognized for his actions on Sept. 10, 2011 when a vehicle borne improvised explosive devise detonated outside his combat outpost causing extensive damage. Schrader rushed to the impact area and began assisting wounded personnel. 

Georgia Army Guard Spc. Robert Schrader Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff presents Spc. Robert Schrader with 
the Army Commendation Medal in Kabul Feb 10, 2012 for his actions following a VBIED attack at Combat Outpost Sayed Abad in September 2010.

“What I did that day is nothing more than any Soldier should or would do, when faced with the situation we had,” said Schrader following the award ceremony. “I definitely didn’t expect to get an award for my actions. (Command Sgt. Major Parker) is always telling us, ‘Do the right thing. You live the Army Values through your words and through your deeds, so always do the right thing, regardless of the situation in which you find yourself.’ That’s all I was trying to do that day, and all I try to do any day.”[8]

Major George McCommon, veterinarian with ADT-1, demonstrates 
the proper way to trim the hooves on farm animals
in Logar Province. Photo by Spc. Christopher Hall.

Patrols and missions continued despite the cold temperatures and thick blanket of snow. But even as
ADT-I Soldiers shivered against the February cold they were about to receive welcome relief.

On February 22, 2012, the 265th Regional Support Group’s ADT-2 bid farewell to friends and family members during a departure ceremony in Metter, Ga.[9] Georgia’s second ADT, commanded by Col. Craig McGalliard, Arrived in Logar Province in March and trained alongside their fellow Georgia Guardsmen of ADT-1.

On April 12, 2012, the Gymnasium at Fort Gordon was filled to capacity as hundreds of family members, friends and fellow service members welcomed home the Soldiers of ADT-1. For twelve months, the Soldiers of ADT-1 had labored to help improve the quality of life for the Afghan people of Logar province. In the course of their deployment, the Soldiers completed 192 ground missions and 92 air missions without a single casualty.

Major George McCommon, a veterinarian from Macon, Ga. spoke of the thrill of being home while also reflecting on the work ADT-1 had accomplished.

“It’s a bit surreal,” said McCommon. “We had a great time in Afghanistan, and we didn’t stop. The Afghan people welcomed us, and we helped them foster positive relationships with their government.”[10]

Recalling the ADT mission in 2021, Maj. Gen. Tom Carden, Adjutant General of the Georgia Department of Defense, noted humanitarian parallels to current missions of the Ga. DOD.

“The broad civilian and military skill set of Georgia’s Citizen Soldiers made them uniquely capable of performing the ADT mission,” said Carden. “One of the hallmarks of the National Guard is how adept its Soldiers and Airmen are at serving at home and overseas. This was demonstrated by the ADT mission in 2011 and continues to be demonstrated through 2021 and our coordinated response to COVID-19.”

ADT Soldiers render honors to the colors Sept. 11, 2011. Photo by Sgt. Christopher Hall

This article would not have been possible without the efforts of Sgt. Christopher Hall of ADT-1 whose imagery and captions served as the backbone of this narrative.

[1] Christopher Hall. “Georgia Assumes Command of Afghan Agriculture Mission.” The Georgia Guardsman, June 2011, 11.


[2] “Agribusiness Development Team (ADT).” 2008 Army Posture Statement,


[3] Roy Henry. “Agricultural Development Teams tap UGA for Afghan Mission.” The Georgia Guardsman, March 2011, 9-10.

[4] Roy Henry. “ADT Security Undergoes Stress Fire Training.” The Georgia Guardsman, December 2010, 3-4.


[5] Roy Henry. “Georgia AG Team Sharpens Language Skills, Prepares for Afghanistan.” The Georgia Guardsman, January 2011, 8.


[6] Merritt Melancon. “Georgia Guardsmen Return to UGA to Present Base Flag.” CAES News, University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, June 12, 2012.

[7] Jennifer Whittaker. “Ga. National Guard Helping Afghan Farmers.” Georgia Neighbors, Fall 2011, 26 and 30.

[8] Christopher J. Hall. “Georgia Soldier Presented Award by Joint Chiefs Chairman.” The Georgia Guardsman, March 2012, 5.


[9] Michael Thompson. “Agribusiness Development Team II Departs for Afghanistan.” The Georgia Guardsman, March 2012, 15.


[10] William Carraway “ADT Returns from Afghanistan.” The Georgia Guardsman, May 2012, 5-6.

1 comment:

  1. One of the best missions I ever participated in during my 28 year career, the absolute best Soldiers picked for those ADT deployments. Thankful to be a member of GA-ADT-1, Team Harvester!


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