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Wisconsin Guard unit returns from sneak peek at Afghanistan deployment

MADISON, Wis. -- Ten members of the Wisconsin National Guard's 82nd Agribusiness Development Team-including the unit commander-returned from three weeks in Afghanistan, just in time for a formal sendoff ceremony on Feb. 4.

According to Col. Darrel Feucht, 82nd ADT commander, the goal of the pre-deployment site survey was to get a sense from the Illinois National Guard's 1-14th ADT-the team the 82nd ADT will replace-about the day-to-day operations of the mission. That mission will be to conduct agricultural development planning, assessment and support activities to expand legal agriculture and agribusiness, services, markets, and education in order to reduce rural poverty, increase employment opportunities in agriculture service industries and improve agriculture education. The 82nd ADT also met key Afghan leaders during their visit.

The Wisconsin National Guard learned in July 2010 that it would be tasked with forming its first agribusiness development team, a National Guard initiative. The 82nd ADT-composed of about 60 Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard members-conducted its first drill in February 2011 and has spent the last year preparing for its deployment.

In addition to their normal drill weekends, the team also had two annual trainings totaling approximately six weeks. In that time, 82nd ADT members completed their required Army Warrior Tasks, conducted theater and mission specific training, and even took part in a week-long "Ag 101" crash course put on by UW-Madison's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

The site visit brings the 82nd ADT one step closer to beginning its mission.

"We went out on four missions with [the 1-14th ADT]," Feucht said. "We were busy from sunup to sundown."

The 82nd ADT members met with the district agricultural extension agent and attended key leader engagement meetings, and took part in a foot patrol to inspect an ADT-supported demonstration farm. The visit also offered a general idea of the area's agricultural condition.

"I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the farms," Feucht said.

Capt. William Benson, operations officer with the 82nd ADT, said the visit was invaluable.

"It confirmed that our training was spot-on," he said. "Illinois has set the bar pretty high, but they have been nothing but helpful in getting us where we need to be."

Saturday's sendoff was ceremonial, as the 82nd ADT will not leave for Camp Atterbury, Ind., until the end of February for their final pre-mobilization training. From there the unit is expected to deploy to Afghanistan in late March.
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