Monday, February 15, 2010

Afghan Women Can Succeed in Agriculture

Local Afghan women package harvested saffron as part of the Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team, Task Force Cyclone, Womens' Empowerment Project in Panjshir Province. The Womens' Empowerment Team of the Kentucky ADT educate women on things they can do at home, such as grow saffron and mushrooms and other things to improve their families lives.
Photo by US Army SGT Jo Lisa Ashley, Kentucky ADT Task Force Cyclone

KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan - The Kentucky Army National Guard and Air Guard united in August 2009 to form Kentucky’s first joint Agri-business Development Team.

This specialized unit is made up of service members from different backgrounds throughout the state of Kentucky.

Around 80% of Afghanistan’s populous is connected to the agriculture industry. Since Aug., the ADT has spent their deployment educating the local farmers and government on how to increase productivity, increase their market share and manage natural resources in Parwan, Panjshir, Kapisa and Bamyan provinces.

As a result of their work, the production of potatoes and onion has greatly increased in the Bamyan province.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. William T. Ewing, from Harrisburg, Ky., has a degree in Entomology and has been working with the Agricultural team during his deployment here.

“The Afghan people can grow a lot of crops,” said Ewing. “They are actually producing more than they consume or export, and we are teaching them how to export and store their crops longer.”

With the ADT’s help, pomegranate farmers in the Tagab district of the Kapisa province were able to export their crops to India and Dubai. Because they exported to these countries, they received three times their normal price for the crops.

Educating the people on natural resource management has been a key point of the ADT. Irrigation and reforestation advances should greatly improve agricultural production in Afghanistan.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ray Norris, from Scottsburg, In., assigned to the 123rd Airlift Wing in Louisville, Ky., grew up on a family farm and volunteered to deploy with the ADT.

Norris spent some time in the Yakalong district of the Bamyan province where there is an eroded canal that provides water to about 800 family farms.

“There are not many organizations in this area helping the people,” said Norris. “We are working to get the materials so the people can make repairs themselves.”

The ADT has been working with the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), and the Director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (DAIL) at the provincial levels in the Parwan, Panjshir, Bamyan and Kapisa provinces.

U.S. Army Col. Mike D. Farley, from Corbin, Ky., is the commander of the ADT and is glad to be a part of this important and unique mission.

“We are here to help the people increase the nutritional value in the country and sustain a better and healthier lifestyle,” said Farley.

We are working directly with the MAIL and the DAIL’s, to give them the knowledge to help their people, said Farley.

The ADT has also been working to teach the women of Afghanistan techniques to improve their home life.

U.S. Army Sgt. Jo Lisa Ashley, of Eubank, Ky. is the ADT’s women’s empowerment coordinator for the team.

“Most women here work at home, they take care of their families and the household duties,” said Ashley. “I am working with them on projects that they can do at home to bring in extra income.”

The Afghan government is working side-by-side with Ministry of Women’s Affairs and they are doing a great job about going out and showing that they support these programs for the women, said Ashley.

The ADT will spend about five more months here in Afghanistan before they return home.

- Written by U.S. Army Spc. Charles J. Thompson

As my readers know, I am a huge advocate of reviving the agriculture in Afghanistan and Iraq. No country can survive and prosper without the ability to feed its own people. Look at our own economy as we continue to push out agriculture. I am also an advocate for teaching skills and income making opportunities to women. Thanks to the Kentucky ADT for their efforts!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

History is Our Stories ~ Fred Morrison and the Frisbee

Fred Morrison
Designer of the 'Pluto Platter' - 'Father of the Frisbee'


Fred Morrison had a rather remarkable life. He took the pass time of throwing pie and cake tins and developed a version in the 1950's that was plastic - the Pluto Platter. Wham-O purchased the Pluto Platter in 1955 and marketed it under the name Frisbee in 1957, launching a toy that is familiar around the globe.
"The world has changed a lot in the past 50 years, but the original purpose of Frisbee has remained constant," Morrison said on the 50th anniversary of his invention in 2007. "Just seeing the smile on a child's face as he or she catches a soaring disc on a summer afternoon in the park, or a grown-up diving headfirst to grab a falling disc, that is what the spirit of the Frisbee is all about."
Fred was a pilot in World War II. He was a fighter-bomber pilot. Shot down while flying a mission over Italy, he spent 48 days as a prisoner of war in the infamous German camp, Stalag 13.

When he first invented the Pluto Platter, he went on the fair circuit to demonstrate and sell the toy... without demonstration, no one knew what it was for. He would also dress up in 'space' attire to draw attention.

On the East Coast, a long standing game had been to flip pie platters made by the Frisbie pie company. Wham-O used the name, changed the spelling and the Pluto Platter became the Frisbee.

Thanks, Fred, for the hours of fun with the Frisbee! I remember a glow in the dark frisbee - we used to charge it in the headlights of the car and then throw it to one another in the park in the dark!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

History is Our Stories ~ Charlie Wilson of Texas

Representative Charlie Wilson
The Liberal from Lufkin

If you haven't read and seen Charlie Wilson's War --- you should.
If you are interested in the history of Afghanistan --- you should read and see Charlie Wilson's War.

Charlie Wilson was the Congressman from the 2nd District of Texas from 1973-1996. He was known as "Good Time Charlie" for his excesses as a hard-drinking womanizer. But, he was also a very hard working Congressman and defense hawk. He is best known for the appropriations he secured for the US covert war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. The money provided weapons for the Afghans who drove the Soviet Army out their country, contributing to the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.

After the ousting of the Soviet Union, the US withdrew its support, in spite of Wilson's encouragement to help rebuild.
"That caused an enormous amount of real bitterness in Afghanistan and it was probably the catalyst for Taliban movement," Wilson said in a 2001 interview.

Charlie Wilson loved this country and the men and women who served to protect and defend her. He was a staunch supporter of the VA and its hospitals. He was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in 1956 and served in the Navy from 1956 to 1960.

One of my favorite Charlie Wilson stories:
A Trinity city councilman purposefully poisoned his dog and killed him, when Wilson was 13. Wilson described how he used his hardship driver's license to round up voters from the poor neighborhoods to vote in the councilman's election. Wilson said he told the voters as they got out of the car that he did not want to tell them which way to vote, but the councilman, Charles Hazard, killed his dog. Wilson said he drove 96 voters to the polls, and Hazard lost his reelection by 13 votes. Wilson described that as the day he fell in love with America.
America is a better place because of Charlie Wilson. And, east Texas is a better place because of Charlie Wilson.

Wilson is survived by his wife, Barbara, who he married in 1999, his sister, Sharon Allison, a niece and nephew. He was born in Trinity in 1933. Funeral services are pending.

Rest in Peace, Charlie --- and thank you!

A great interview (8 minutes)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Afghan Women Learn to Grow Mushrooms

Women from Laghman province learned how to grow mushrooms using wet straw
in a class hosted by the coalition Female Engagement Team.

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan –Some women from Laghman province learned how to grow mushrooms during a class hosted by the coalition Female Engagement Team this past week.

The Female Engagement Team has been able to develop a more intimate relationship with the Afghan female students. Afghan women have reached out to request a booth at the coalition run Forward Operating Base Bazaar to sell hand-made products. The request was approved to will allow the local Afghan women work in the locan business community.

The FMT is currently organizing classes on tailoring and computer skills for the women.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Korean War Memorial Under Snow

Korean War Memorial, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010,
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Snow covers the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, Friday, Feb. 5, 2010.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

When you read about or hear stories about the Korean War,
there is always discussion of the sleet, the snow, the bitter cold.
I think the statues look like I think of the Korean War in these pictures.

Previous Korean War Memorial Posts:

Visiting the Korean War Memorial with an Iraq Vet

Korean War Armistice ~ 56 Years Ago

Oregon Korean War Memorial

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Face of Freedom ~ Capt Scott Smiley Takes Command ~ Blind Warrior Excels

Tiffany Smiley holds her youngest son while watching her husband Capt. Scott M Smiley salute the colors during the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Unit change of command ceremony Feb. 1, at West Point, N.Y.

Capt. Scott M. Smiley speaks briefly as his cadre stand in formation after he accepted command of the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Unit at West Point, N.Y.

Capt. Scott M. Smiley grins while passing the guidon back to 1st Sgt. Deon E. Dabrio during the change of command ceremony Feb. 1, for the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Unit at West Point, N.Y.
Photo Credits: Tommy Gilligan.

WEST POINT, N.Y. (Feb. 1, 2010) -- Soldier, Infantryman, Airborne Ranger, combat diver, mountain climber, skier, triathlete, surfer, husband and father are just a few words to describe Capt. Scotty Smiley.

Now, add company commander to his resume as he became the first blind officer to assume command of a Warrior Transition Unit, Monday.

He became only the second wounded warrior to assume command of a WTU.

During Smiley's last deployment to Iraq in 2005, he was wounded, permanently losing his vision.

After receiving medical attention, Smiley was transferred to the Fort Lewis, Wash., WTU. There he began his recovery and his journey to get back to active-duty status.

The 2003 West Point graduate wanted to get back to doing what he loved and that was serving his country in uniform.

Smiley attributes his strength and drive during his recovery to his family, faith and friends.

"It was my wife, my family and friends who were in my hospital room singing songs and reading the Bible that gave me the strength during my recovery," he said. "It was all of this which allowed me to put one foot in front of the other and has allowed me to accomplish everything that I have done to get to where I am today."

The Army Times 2007 Soldier of the Year looked at what had happened to him and made the decision that he was not going down the same path as the character Gary Sinise played in the 1994 movie Forrest Gump.

"The decisions that Lieutenant Dan made after his injuries never came into my mind. I wanted to take care of myself--physically, mentally and spiritually," he said. "I just did not want to give up because of something that negatively happened to me."

He dreamed to return back to active duty, but he knew it was going to be a long and strenuous path. However, it was not anything Smiley was willing to give up on.

"There were some very long dark days, physically and mentally, but I just had to keep pushing on," Smiley said.

He transitioned back to active duty, working at the U.S. Army Accessions Command at Fort Monroe, Va. After being there for some time, Smiley's commander told him he had been selected to go to grad school.

"I thought he was kidding me. I was absolutely shocked," he explained.

"Then they are going to let me go teach--that was awesome," Smiley said with a smile stretching from ear to ear.

He attended Duke University where he received his master's of business administration.

While Smiley was in school, he also cultivated a friendship that had begun during the summer of 2007 with legendary Duke University basketball coach and fellow West Point graduate, Mike Krzyzewski, Class of 1969, before the men's basketball world championships and Olympics.

"When my brigade commander, who was (then a) colonel and is now Brigadier General Brown, asked if I would be interested in speaking to the team, I was taken aback. 'Are you sure you know who you are talking to? Why would the national basketball team want me to talk to them?'" Smiley said.

"The first time I met him, he spoke to the Olympic team in Las Vegas. We were trying to teach the team about selfless service," Krzyzewski said. "They not only heard what Scott had to say, but they truly felt what he had to say."

"When I think of Scotty, I think of ultimate service, especially selfless service," he added.

When Smiley realized why Coach K wanted him to come speak to the team, it made sense to him. "Coach Krzyzewski went and coached here, he understands what sacrifice is all about," Smiley said.

After completing his master's degree, Smiley returned to where it started during the summer of 1999, although in a very different capacity.

Over the past six months, Smiley has been an instructor in the Behavioral Sciences and Leadership Department, teaching a leadership course to third-year cadets.

"His endurable spirit and character are traits that the cadets can just relate to," said Lt. Col. Eric Kail, a BS&L instructor. "He has overcome so much through his attitude and desire to excel in life. Scott is a great teacher."

Even though Smiley will not be physically teaching in the classroom for the duration of his tour as WTU commander, he will be leading by example as he begins this new chapter of his life.

Smiley's former commander while at USAAC and present U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp, shared his thoughts on this occasion.

"Scott brings a whole new dimension to Soldiering and leadership. When you are around him, you can't help but want to do your best--without complaining--because he gives his best everyday," said Van Antwerp, class of 1972.

About Smiley being the second wounded warrior to hold a command position, Van Antwerp said, "Scotty will be a great commander. He will lead from the front like he has always done. I am proud of him and proud of our Army for giving him this opportunity."

Others like Krzyzewski seconded that notion.

"He may not have the eyes to see, but he sees more things than most leaders could ever see," Krzyzewski said. "His ability to translate that to his unit and the people he has (under his command), he will have the ability to touch many and they will be impacted tremendously."

Smiley now takes command of a company that he himself understands.

"I know what they are going through. I understand the dynamics of the company, how it works and areas of concern that need to be improved," Smiley said.

With only 50 percent of his command on West Point grounds, Smiley will travel from the rocky shorelines of Maine to the rolling hills of Pennsylvania to ensure his troops are being taken care of and doing what they need to do to get better.

"It is now my responsibility to inspire them and to continue to help them get the job done," Smiley said.

With his goals set and with a firm personal understanding of his present and future troops, the new company commander begins his tour, leading from the front like he always has.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Special Forces in Agfghanistan

U.S. Special Forces are extracted from a mountain pinnacle in Zabul province, Afghanistan, by a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 82nd Aviation Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade after executing an air assault mission to disrupt insurgent communication.
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Aubree Clute

Click Picture to Enlarge

Some things these guys do are just too amazing for words!