COLUMBIA — Aaron Briscoe put his plan to become an agricultural education teacher on hold this year.
Instead, he shared his passion with the citizens of Afghanistan as a member of the Missouri National Guard 935th Agribusiness Development Team.
“It’s not every day you get to go across the world and do something you love,” he said.
On Christmas Eve, the MU senior returned to the family farm in Cairo, Mo., to see his dad sitting on an old Farmall M tractor with a sign: “Welcome home.”
Briscoe joined the National Guard in 2005. Trained as a combat medic, he was hand-selected for deployment because of his experience in agriculture.
The agribusiness team from Missouri is the first unit of its kind. Ten agriculture specialists joined 37 others from around the state for the assignment that began last January in Afghanistan.
Briscoe and his fellow soldiers worked with the Afghani communities to plan and implement projects aimed at improving agriculture efficiency.
“We would try to find an Afghan solution for an Afghan problem,” said Briscoe. “It was usually not hard to find someone who was wanting or needing help.”
Before deployment, Briscoe worked for the MU greenhouse facilities.
He used his knowledge of horticulture to develop a plan for a breathable greenhouse with a net covering used to protect seeds from Afghanistan’s intense sunlight. The plastic coverings they used did not allow proper ventilation.
Briscoe left the country before he saw the results of the project, but a new Missouri agribusiness team is there continuing the work.
This was Briscoe’s first deployment, and he assumes it won't be his last. Had he stayed in the United States, Briscoe would have graduated in May.
“The biggest challenge was knowing that in that period of time I would have been graduating,” said Briscoe.
It was difficult for him to know his friends were leaving college and finding jobs, and time away from the farm was also a struggle. But, he said, the opportunity to improve life for the Afghanis was well worthwhile.
“Working with the people was a joy,” he said. “They were very happy the U.S. was there trying to help Afghanistan get better.”