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NEWS | Nov. 9, 2023

From battlefield to farmland: North Carolina Army Reserve Soldiers enhance USDA with military skills

By Spc. Alejandro Duran-Ortiz 210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

In an era where the United States faces great power competition on the world stage, the role of our Armed Forces becomes increasingly critical. The U.S. Army Reserve stands as a testament to readiness and adaptability, preparing Soldiers and units to respond to crises, win in conflict, and shape the future. Nearly 190,000 Army Reserve Soldiers serve across all states and territories, demonstrating the breadth and commitment of this force.

As Veterans Day approaches, it's appropriate to recognize not only the sacrifices of these individuals but also the seamless transition many make into civilian roles. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is an exemplary institution that harnesses the skills of veterans, proving that preparedness and defense are just as vital to America's food and agriculture sectors as they are to the nation's security.

2nd Lt. Kenneth Payne of the 389th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion reflects the Army Reserve's ethos of being 'Ready Now.' As a civil engineer technician with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), he brings military precision to enhancing North Carolina's agricultural infrastructure. Payne's role is indicative of how military experience is crucial not only in conflict but also in contributing to the sustenance and growth of rural America.

"When designing, I consider the specific needs of each farm," Payne said. "My military experience influences every decision, from composters for smaller poultry operations to extensive fencing systems for livestock. These projects are critical in keeping America's food supply safe and secure."

In tandem with this, Maj. Linda Gerron, commander of the 210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, showcases the versatility of veterans. While serving her country, she also excels as the State Outreach and Communications Coordinator for the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). Gerron's journey embodies the adaptability of Army Reserve Soldiers, who are not only ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow but are also actively fortifying rural communities today.

"Ten years on active duty taught me that success is often about adapting to new roles and environments," Gerron said. "Now, as a reservist and a member of the USDA team, I apply the same lessons. Whether leading Soldiers or developing outreach programs for farmers, the core skills remain the same: adaptability, strategic thinking, and a steadfast commitment to the mission. The uniform may change, but the sense of duty and the drive to serve endures."

These initiatives are part of a broader effort by the USDA to support America's heroes. The USDA actively seeks veterans to fill roles critical to the nation's food safety, community resilience, and environmental stewardship.

According to Gerron, the USDA recognizes that veterans possess a wealth of experience and a strong work ethic and offers opportunities that directly translate to jobs in soil conservation, procurement, information technology, food inspection, public health, firefighting, finance, and economics, to name a few.

As the nation displays its flags on Veterans Day, it is imperative to not only honor past sacrifices but also to recognize and appreciate the ongoing contributions of veterans. For Army Reserve Soldiers like Payne and Gerron, each day is an opportunity to apply their military experience in the service of their nation, contributing to the USDA's mission of supporting the backbone of the country—its rural communities and agricultural sector.