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Guard team sets out to win hearts, minds and souls in Afghanistan

Nevada Guard Soldiers and Airmen will head into the battle to help farmers in answer to the National Guard Bureau’s call for a team that it intends will have a ripple effect on mending the torn infrastructure in Afghanistan.

Nevada Guard Soldiers and Airmen will head into the battle to help farmers in answer to the National Guard Bureau’s call for a team that it intends will have a ripple effect on mending the torn infrastructure in Afghanistan.

Las Vegas -- Guard team sets out to win hearts, minds and souls in Afghanistan By Tech Sgt. Wendy Yada Nevada Air National Guard LAS VEGAS - Nevada Guard Soldiers and Airmen will head into the battle to help farmers in answer to the National Guard Bureau's call for a team that it intends will have a ripple effect on mending the torn infrastructure in Afghanistan. "You are going there to win the hearts, minds and souls of the people there," said State Command Sgt. Maj. Daryl Keithley, describing the humanitarian mission as integral to rebuilding. "You are the ones who are going to make the difference." Hundreds of family members and fellow service members attended a deployment ceremony for the 152nd Nevada Air and Army National Guard Agribusiness Development Team at the Las Vegas Readiness Center on Sunday, July 11. Several of Nevada's leaders who attended the ceremony praised the Nevada Agri-Business Development Team (ADT) as the first of its kind in the history of Nevada National Guard. This specialized unit consisting of "joint forces" will spend a year training and advising local farmers, provincial ministries, and Afghan universities. The ADT consists of 53 Soldiers and nine Airmen with backgrounds and experience in various sectors of the agribusiness field. "We selected the very best team Nevada has to offer. Over the years, the Afghan people will remember the members of this great organization," said Brig. Gen. Francis P. Gonzales, assistant adjutant general for Nevada's Army National Guard. "I am confident because they are the best trained and have the best leadership." In support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the team will provide immediate agricultural expertise and provide security to enable daily community engagement. The Nevada ADT must ensure that improvements are sustainable with local assets and are within the context of the provincial directive of agriculture, irrigation, and livestock abilities. Gonzales, commenting on the unit's purpose, added that "you don't give a fisherman a fish. You teach him how to fish." The Nevada ADT members' special skills will be used to compliment other agencies in the overall mission. Col. Johnny Isaak, the ADT commander noted, that aside from the unit's main objective of making a positive impact on the nation's agricultural sector, five female Soldiers will be a part of this mission specifically to attend to women's outreach programs. "We may not be able to shoot our way out," Isaak said. "But we sure can farm our way out." This is the first time the Air National Guard Deployed with the Army National Guard in a Joint mission to Afghanistan. "This is an uncommon event," said Brig. Gen. Robert V. Fitch, the commander of the Nevada Air National Guard. "In fact this is the first time we have deployed with the Army. One thing that these Soldiers and Airman will have in common is their success." Many of the Soldiers and Airman will be leaving family members behind. One of them, Linda Hollinghurst, the mother of newly promoted Sgt. Sam Boyd, said that she was very proud of her son. Boyd is a member of the military police and served with the 72nd MP Company three years ago when it deployed to Afghanistan. "I think it's really good that our country help another country grow and that Sam will be part of it," she said. "He was an Eagle Scout. He's very patriotic and always has been that way. I didn't know that I was raising a Soldier." Some family members will be aided by the family readiness group, a network of spouses that will call on each other while their loves ones are away. Annie Gray, the wife of Sgt. 1st Class Damon Gray, is expecting the couple's third child in November. "I'm excited for him," she said. "This is why he's been training for many years. It feels good that I will get support from other spouses whose husbands are also deploying. I am grateful to these women.". Sgt. 1st Class Frank L. Marquez, 17th Sustainment Bde PA Supervisor, and Staff Sgt. Rebecca Palmer contributed to this report.