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The 54 Guardsmen of the Missouri National Guard's Agribusiness Development Team VI were surrounded by many friends, Family and coworkers during their departure ceremony at Ike Skelton Training Site March 9. (Photo by Rachel Knight/Missouri National Guard)
By Rachel Knight
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Friends and Family gathered at Ike Skelton Training Site in Jefferson City to wish their loved ones well as the Missouri National Guard's Agribusiness Development Team VI departs for more training before arriving in Afghanistan.
Missouri Gov. Jeremiah "Jay" Nixon and Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, wished their Soldiers and Airmen a safe deployment and a speedy return home.
The Missouri National Guard is particularly proud of being the lead state in the Agribusiness Development Team program in Afghanistan. The first team was a pilot program for the nation and arrived in Nangarhar Province in 2007.
"The men and women that have come before you have set the standard for our country and we are proud of the state of Missouri," said Nixon. "Since that first Agribusiness Development Team went to Afghanistan five years ago, other states have seen the success of the program and have started their own teams with Missouri leading the way."
The Agribusiness Development Team has agriculture specialists including project managers, engineers, instructors, legal advisors and security forces personnel. More than a dozen states - including Texas, Indiana, Iowa and Kansas - now have teams in Afghanistan to provide help to the Afghan people. The ADTs work closely with Afghan farmers, government and industry leaders.
Missouri's fifth team has been overseas since March 2011 and will return after a hand off with team six.
The sixth team, under the command of Lt. Col. Andre Edison, is composed of 41 Soldiers and 13 Airmen who have already received deployment-specific training for 30 days at Camp Clark. The unit is now moving to Camp Atterbury, Ind., where it will complete its training. The team will then deploy to Afghanistan's Nangarhar Province.
"We have been working very, very hard for our mission," said Edison. "My number one mission is to get you back to your families."
Many of the Soldiers and Airmen who are deploying with team six have deployed before.
"We have a lot of experience in this team," said Danner. "I expect great things from them."
Danner told the Soldiers and Airmen to keep in contact with their families during the deployment. Guardsmen can keep in contact via e-mail, phone calls, Skype, Facebook or other communication channels.
As tradition, the youngest member and oldest member of the deploying team receive flags. Nixon presented Spc. Kalobb Lute with the Missouri state flag and Danner presented Master Sgt. Richard Joseph Gal with the U.S. flag.
Lute, of Laclede, is 20 years old and entered the Army National Guard in October 2008 as a field artilleryman.
Gal, of Imperial, has been a member with the Missouri Air National Guard for 14 years. Prior to that he served with the active duty Air Force for four years. Currently, he serves with the 131st Bomb Wing as a flight mechanic on the B-2 Spirit Bomber at Whiteman Air Force Base.
These Guardsmen are asked to fly these flags proudly during their deployment and return with them safely to Missouri when their mission is complete.
Following the ceremony, Edison and Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Lederle presented Kathleen Williams, the wife of Tech Sgt. Vern Williams, with a Certificate of Appreciation from the Phoenix Warriors and a signed T-shirt for her outstanding support of Missouri Agribusiness Development Team VI.
Kathleen Williams hand-made unit guidons. Guidons are flags that serve as unit identification markers. These flags have instilled a sense of esprit de corps for American fighting units since the Revolutionary War.
Over the course of 150 hours, Kathleen hand-made three guidons for the deployment.
"I'm mostly self-taught, and I used a sewing machine for a portion of these guidons," Kathleen said. "I bought all of the basic materials, and made these on the kitchen table at home."
Missouri Agribusiness Development Team VI will focus on energy, education, resource management, and irrigation and water issues, value added enterprises and food safety. The team, composed of specialists in agricultural animals, agronomy, hydrology, pest management, soil science, security and marketing, will relieve the fifth Missouri Agribusiness Development Team.
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please visit www.moguard.com and our social media sites: www.facebook.com/Missouri.National.Guard; www.twitter.com/Missouri_NG; www.youtube.com/MoNationalGuard; www.myspace.com/missouri_ng; www.flickr.com/photos/missouriguard; www.moguard.com/blog; www.pinterest.com/monationalguard/
Spc. Kalobb Lute, the youngest deploying member, and Master Sgt. Richard Joseph Gal, the oldest member of the Agribusiness Development Team VI, are presented the Missouri State Flag and the United States Flag to fly them proudly during the deployment and return with them safely back to Missouri. Gov. Jay Nixon and Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner present the flags. (Photo by Rachel Knight/Missouri National Guard)
Spc. Arthur Johnson and his wife, Sarah, say goodbye as he prepares to deploy to Afghanistan with the Missouri National Guard's Agribusiness Development Team VI. (Photo by Rachel Knight/Missouri National Guard)
Lt. Col. Andre Edison (left) and Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Lederle (right) present Kathleen Williams the Certificate of Appreciation from the Phoenix Warriors for her outstanding support of Missouri Agribusiness Development Team VI and a special T-shirt signed by the unit. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Robertson/Missouri National Guard)
Tech. Sgt. Vern Williams, his wife Kathleen and family proudly display the units Guidon following the Missouri Agribusiness Development Team VI deployment ceremony in Jefferson City, Mo. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Robertson/Missouri National Guard)
Missouri Agribusiness Development Team VI stands ready to deploy to Afghanistan, bringing extensive knowledge in agricultural animals, agronomy, hydrology, pest management, soil science, security and marketing. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Robertson/Missouri National Guard)