New places, new faces

As a producer embedding with the Minnesota National Guard’s Zabul Agribusiness Development Team* I have the benefit of having a coordinating producer on the ground in Afghanistan. For my more-typical productions I am a one-man-band, making calls, making arrangements, not having anyone to tag as being ‘it’. This coordinating producer I have in Afghanistan is public affairs officer, LT (Lieutenant) Davin Fischer. LT Fischer and I have been in communication since just prior to his August departure. In August this production wasn’t yet green lit, but it was enough of a sure thing to have me chat him up a few times. As I learned during my Iraq embed the assigned public affairs officer is a lifeline to getting anything done.

PAO in Iraq

Without the aide of a good PAO the a producer is stuck. Heikkila (left) Kemp (right)

In Iraq MSG (Master Sergeant) Rich Kemp was the guy. He was on the phone lining up transportation. He was making contact with my next interviewee. He knew what I wanted and needed to see and he made sure I got to where I needed to be. Without a LT Fischer or MSG Kemp a member of the media would have little chance of making sense of the military systems and procedures embedded journalists are faced with.

This is probably as good a time as any to share a link to a news story the local FOX affiliate aired focusing on LT Fischer, his family and the mission of the ADT.  Over the weekend I received an e-mail from LT Fischer and. It was an e-mail that I had requested, yet its thoroughness was a surprise, a pleasant surprise. In the unique relationship that tpt has with the Minnesota National Guard it has been easy to devise the ways and means for me to tell the story of this deployment. By easy I guess I should say it has been easy for me.  I just sort of come up with the types of things I want to see and ‘poof’ it happens.  I will make no guess at the amount of coordinating LT Fischer has had to go through to come up with the following missions for me to see while I’m with him in April.

There are members of the Zabul ADT in three locations in Zabul Province so my trip will be divided into three sections.

Map of Highway 1 in Afghanistan

Courtesy BBC - map of Highway 1

I will spend several days in Qalat, the location of FOB (Forward Operating Base) Apache. I will try to decipher and define acronyms. While in Qalat I will attend meetings with provincial DAIL (Department of Agriculture, Irrigation, Livestock) and other Afghan Government Leaders. It is at these meetings that the ground work for the activities I will see while I’m out ‘on location’ is laid. The previous Guard units serving in Zabul have created relationships with DAIL and Afghan Leaders that the Minnesota unit will further expand. Aside from seeing how the relationships are built I will see some actual building taken place. I will take a tour of a slaughterhouse the ADT has been vital in selecting a new site for. A poultry raising program is also on the shortlist of sites.

Tarnak Wal Jaldak (TWJ) is another location on the log. TWJ is south of Qalat on Highway 1 towards Kandahar. Highway 1 is the main artery for travel between Kabul to the north and Kandahar to the south.

Qalat foot patrol

Courtesy - Zabul ADT - Foot patrol in a Qalat bazaar

Arghandab Vet Seminar

Courtesy - Zabul ADT - Vet seminar in Arghandab

Missions I may see while in TWJ include: a bazaar foot patrol, a Female Engagement Team (FET) mission and a visit to a demonstration farm. All three of these stories present the possibility of bringing back some very strong visual stories.

Shah Joy is the region to the north of Qalat, towards Kabul. LT Fischer describes this area as a more contentious area and as a result ADT operations in this area differ. Possibilities for this leg include witnessing seminars and possible agriculture and veterinary seminars.

I provided a Wiki link to Qalat above, Tarnak Wal Jaldak and Shah Joy have no Wiki pages.  That’s sort of cool.  Going somewhere that Wiki knows nothing about.  Maybe I’ll write up my first Wiki entries when I get back home.

While I’m in Afghanistan I hope to be able to post similar photos to those I have referenced in this entry. Until then go ahead and check out the Minnesota National Guard’s ZADT Facebook page for more photos depicting their mission in Zabul, Afghanistan. While you’re there drop a note of appreciation on their wall.

Friends and family members of: COL Ahlness, LTC DeGier, SFC Carlson, CPT Wachenheim, SFC Banta, CPT Carlson, SFC Hunter, CPT Foley and SFC McFadden your soldiers have been identified as key members of the team that I will see while showing viewers of tpt the work that is being done by, with and through the collaboration of Minnesotans, North Dakotans, Mississippians and Afghans. I hope you find these writings to be a useful view of what your husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers are doing as they are 7,000 miles from home.

*While writing this post I received a message from LT Fischer that the name of their unit has changed from the 135th to Z-ADT (Zabul Agribusiness Development Team). Going forward all references to the 135th will be changed over to Z-ADT.

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