FRESNO, CA –
Maybe this has happened to you. You’ve been friendly with the local farmer near your basecamp, exchanging waves and occasional greetings, when suddenly one morning, without warning, he is unexplainably hostile and his friendly greetings have digressed into exchanges of gunfire.
Participants in the Agricultural Development for Armed Forces Pre-Deployment Training (ADAPT) program know what went wrong.
“The program really came into its own in Afghanistan,” explained Col. Bradford "Brad" Hughes, who is the Functional Specialty Team (FxSP) Chief for the 351st Civil Affairs Command (CACOM) out of Mountain View, California.
“During the training we did in January we had a guest speaker, retired two-star, Maj. Gen. Darren Owens, from the Texas National Guard,” said Hughes. “He’s considered kind of the architect of the ADTs, agriculture development teams … with respect to Afghanistan, I want to say this went on for about 10 years while things were pretty active there.”
The message of ADAPT is to provide fundamental training in basic agricultural systems in regions where are troops are going to deploy or mobilize, whether it be for humanitarian aid, or for long term conflict operations. The goal of the program is to ensure Soldiers have a base understanding of the situation before they leave, some awareness of the landscape and its relationship to food insecurity and stability operations while they are down range, and also some very basic intervention techniques they can use, and have continued to use, to build trust with the local population. This allows them to affect a small amount of incremental change during their mission.
One of the goals of the January familiarization training was to expose the entire FxSP to the concepts of food security, and ensure each team member had at least some exposure to information about the influence of agriculture on U.S. missions, both abroad and at home.
The 351st CACOM conducted the ADAPT familiarization for personnel across the Civil Affairs and Security Cooperation ecosystems, including personnel from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, U.S. Army Pacific, the 9th Mission Support Command and it’s 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, and units under the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) footprint, including the 350th CACOM, the 351st CACOM the 352nd CACOM, and the 353rd CACOM.
Training focused on quick impact, practical, agriculture and food security intervention techniques in pre/post disaster scenarios, and in under-governed regions. Keynote speaker, Maj. Gen. (R) Darren Owens discussed lessons learned and battlefield effects from the Agribusiness Development Team (ADT) mission and Afghanistan, while Dr. Bill Erysian and Mr. Paul Sommers (ADAPT Program Leads) reviewed triggers for food systems insecurity, framing their insights towards Theater Security Cooperation goals within the USINDOPACOM area of responsibility (AOR).
The FxSPs are a way to leverage our “soft power.” A grouping of highly educated experts with specialized career experience and unique skill sets, the teams are brought together to gain influence through human interactions. The FxSPs currently have command and control over the 38G area of concentration. The holders of the 38G MOS are Military Government Specialists and they have a subset of an additional 18 individual skill identifiers where the real expertise lies.
Amongst those specialties lies the 6U skill identifier: Agriculture, business and food individuals. The ADAPT program is designed to give everyone a baseline exposure to what these 6U Soldiers specialize in, and the January training was part of that exposure.
Hughes considers the January ADAPT seminar to function as a sort of preview for Soldiers.
“The familiarization was just a teaser. The full-blown program is 3-5 days and they teach you enough where you can intelligently enter a conversation.” Hughes went on to add that although the team members obviously don’t know as much as the instructors, a key benefit to the training is having that network of people who are available for you to call on in any given situation.
While the training you get through the ADAPT program may not cover every type of agriculture you may encounter, it gives a base understanding of issues and solutions and allows you the capability to reach back to Fresno State and as part of the institutional alignment to provide that reach back support.
Hughes pointed out that, as Americans, and especially Servicemembers, we have sort of a “fix-it” mentality where we want to go in and put something in, make it work, apply the band aid to the situation. With ADAPT, this isn’t the way to sustainability.
“Culturally with some of these nations, things take time to evolve… technology isn’t always the answer,” explained Hughes. “I think what we would leave behind, if we are able to really be culturally attuned and assist, is that reach back. In Civil Affairs it’s all about relationships. Hopefully, at the end of the day, when we leave… these nations know who to call if there’s an issue.”
Building that bridge, establishing that connection is the legacy that these functional specialty teams leave behind in the areas that they are assigned to.
“This is a good program,” enthuses Hughes. “It supports institutional alignment, support geo-strategic reach back and supports the efforts of the Strategic Initiatives Group (SIG) and everything that USACAPOC is wanting to do with the 38G program.”
ADAPT instructors are a group of 15 core personnel who together represent 75 countries of experience. The curriculum, made up of 20% classroom lecture and 80% field work, can be taught in three- or five-day blocks, and can utilize partial or full VTC remote learning. Although useful for all Soldiers deploying, the program was specifically designed with Civil Affairs and the FxSP mission in mind.
Because the ADAPT team has such a broad knowledge base with expertise across all AORs and agro-climatic environments, focusing on the specific AOR that the teams are preparing to assist is an easy task. Actual training during the course is focused on building situational awareness of the assigned region. That base knowledge of the relationship between agriculture, food insecurity, and instability in a given theater of operation greatly enhances the ability to engage and built trust in our partner nations.
The SIG is working hard to establish relationships for each one of the 18 special skills, aligning them with academia, with a university or with an organization like the Smithsonian or the Federal Aviation Administration, whichever relates to that ASI. For food security, or agriculture, business and food, that institutional alignment is with Fresno State in California. Bill Erysian, Ph.D., is one of the key instructors for the ADAPT program and brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge.
Erysian recalls the roots of the ADAPT program going back to approximately 2010 when he and a group of colleagues, who had spent a considerable amount of time overseas working in various agricultural development and rural reform projects, realized that there were just a lot of places they couldn’t get to because of conflict.
Tired of being shot at, and having gained exposure to the Civil Affairs mission through a working relationship with a visiting Marine Corps officer on a goodwill mission to the Fresno area, Erysian identified a gap in pre-deployment education.
Erysian and company developed a program, endorsed by the DoD, that allowed them to engage in training various Soldiers prior to their departure and deployment to different parts of Afghanistan.
The message of ADAPT is to provide fundamental training in basic agricultural systems in regions where are troops are going to deploy. The goal is to make sure they have a base understanding of the situation before they leave, some awareness of the landscape and its relationship to food insecurity and stability operations while they are down range, and also some very basic intervention techniques which they can use, and have continued to use, to build trust in the local population. This allows them to affect incremental change during their mission.
Once the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan began, the program made a switch to focus on the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) region which aligned geographically due to the institution being on the West Coast.
With most of the instructors for the program being veterans, active-duty members, or civilians with conflict environment experience, the program managers decided that their services, program, training principles, and paradigm would be useful for USINDOPACOM given the expertise most of them had in tropical agriculture. This led to a relationship with the 351st CACOM and their subordinate units.
The same principles apply to USINDOPACOM that applied to Afghanistan. Incremental change, an understanding of the local environment, and particularly, do no harm while downrange. This was the training that Hughes and company attended in January.
With the 351 CACOM aligned with Army Pacific, active with Task Force Oceania and having a presence on several of the Indo-Pacific islands, there is the understanding that food is important.
“It really has cultural ramifications, we think there is value there to build rapport, establish credibility, and show that we’re interested in helping these nations, these communities and these cultures,” enthused Erysian.
With over 130 attendees from the USINDOPACOM area of operations and heavy participation from the USACAPOC (A) CACOMs, the January training filled an agricultural knowledge gap that defines the relationship between food insecurity and conflict, and laid the groundwork for future mission success.
Oh, and that farmer? The troops took a shortcut across a field of “weeds” late one night destroying his entire wheat crop. An ADAPT graduate would have known better.
For more information on becoming a Military Government Specialist (38G) go to: The USACAPOC (A) Strategic Initiatives Group (SIG), talent management and Civil Affairs recruiting site: https://talent.army.mil/job/civil-affairs/
For more information about how to join Army Reserve Civil Affairs, contact the USACAPOC(A) Task Force Manning recruiting officer at: email@example.com
For more information about the 351st Civil Affairs Command, Functional Specialty Team (FxSP) contact: Col. Bradford “Brad” Hughes, FxSP Chief, at Bradford.firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the ADAPT program contact: Bill Erysian, Ph.D., Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences & Technology, Fresno State University - email@example.com