A detachment of Marine officers is completing a weeklong course at California State University, Fresno learning agricultural practices from cultivation to marketing so they can help farmers in Afghanistan’s war-torn Helmand Province when the Marines are deployed there soon.
Marines from the 3rd Civil Affairs Group of the 11th Regiment of the 1st Division stationed at Camp Pendleton were taught by faculty from the California State University campuses with agricultural programs – Fresno, Chico, San Luis Obispo, Pomona and Humboldt. The five campuses are part of the California State University Consortium for International Development.
Dr. Bill Erysian, coordinator of grants and international projects for Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, spearheaded efforts to offer the Marines hands-on training. “This is first-of-its-kind training for the Marines,” Erysian said.
Among the Jordan College faculty involved in the training is Dr. Ganesan Srinivasan, director of agricultural operations and enterprises, who has visited Afghanistan many times. He provided an overview of Afghan history, culture and agriculture before leading the Marines on a tour of Fresno State more than 1,000-acre Agricultural Laboratory.
On Thursday, June 10, the Marines learned about pomegranate and walnut production, asking questions about where those crops would do well, irrigation requirements, soil composition, cold and heat tolerance and post-harvest considerations.
Marine 1st Lt. Karl Kadon, a 25-year-old officer from Cincinnati, Ohio, briefed media on the course and the intent of the mission in southwestern Afghanistan. He summed it up, “We’re on the constructive side, not the destructive side.”
His group of civil affairs officers will accompany infantry and work directly with the farmers “to help them with their livelihood.” But to accomplish that mission, he said, the Marines need a basic understanding of farming that can be applied to Afghanistan and its people.
“We’re not trying to make Afghan farmers American farmers,” he said, but working to earn the trust of the Afghan people by offering useful information “from start to finish” of the crops.
The course ends Friday, June 11.