One mother in Afghanistan

Major Cheryl Wachenheim has a lot of tools to draw from while in Afghanistan.


Major Cheryl Wachenheim is a lot of things.  As her rank would indicate she is a Major in the U.S. Army.  If you throw her name into a search engine you’ll see that she has a page at  She’s a professor of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University.  To top it off she is a mother, too.

Given her title alone she may have been an obvious choice to go on this deployment as a liaison between Command and Zabul’s Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.  In her words she has, “a vast array of agricultural knowledge.”

As a television producer I gain and carry a little bit of knowledge about topics as varied as Minnesota’s former Governors to the health care system in Germany; however, I don’t know anything about Agribusiness and Applied Economics.  Knowing this about myself I reluctantly asked Cheryl the question, “what is your civilian background and how does it relate to your mission in Zabul?”  You can imagine my relief when instead of answering with something along the lines of, “the macroeconomics of the commodity pricing structure which faces the developing markets of central Asia was my Master’s thesis” she said,

“The most important experience I have had that has helped me here is being a mother.  You have to have a lot of empathy.  You have to work with people who have different objectives.  They have a different background.  They have a different set of motivations.  One of the most important things I do here is try to understand the different motivations and incentives of different people and the way you do that is to gain their trust.”

This sounds a lot like what many parents do every night as they work on convincing both of their children that whatever is being dished up for dinner is something they both will eat.

The wide array of skills National Guard citizen soldiers bring with them as they are deployed around the world is part of what makes them such a valuable asset.  Soldiers like Major Wachenheim not only have the skills they’ve learned while training for missions they also have years of life skills to draw from.  Maybe empathy really does play a role.  Maybe having more Major Wachenheims in the war will limit the number of future mothers who have to send their children off to fight in these foreign lands.  Maybe.

Thanks for reading.