SAN DIEGO -- Marines from the G-3 Civil Affairs Detachment, I Marine Expeditionary Force, attended Agricultural Development for Armed Forces Pre-Deployment Training at the San Diego Botanical Gardens in Encinitas, Calif., June 9-11, in preparation for a deployment to Southeast Asia.
The training is designed to give service members a basic understanding of the agricultural needs and struggles of a particular region. Familiarity with the values and cultures of these countries allows resources to be used more efficiently and allows the civil affairs Marines to better assist the people of those regions.
“The best way to understand them is to understand their livelihood,” said Staff Sgt. Michael W. King, a civil affairs specialist. “And their livelihood is agriculture.”
The program focuses on showing Marines how they can use their resources to make the biggest difference to the local population, said Paul Sommers, the ADAPT project director.
It includes classroom time to discuss the culture, economy and specific needs of a region and hands-on experience with basic techniques. Marines learned methods to minimize crop damage from a typhoon and slow down erosion to preserve crops and fields.
“These are very simple techniques the Marines can use to help communities,” Sommers said.
Some service members grew up on farms in the U.S. and try to apply western methods overseas, but the systems are completely different, said Sommers. This training prevents Marines from inadvertently causing more problems for farmers, he added.
“We have to understand the situation of the farmers and be very strategic with our help to make sure we don’t cause any difficulties or harm,” Sommers said.
The ADAPT program was developed by Fresno State University for service members deploying to Afghanistan. In preparation to send Marines to Southeast Asia, the university was asked to modify the training for that region.
“We went session by session and selected which ones they would like to have modified,” Sommers said.
By changing the types of crops discussed in the course and focusing on counteracting natural obstacles, such as earth quakes or weather patterns, the training can be adapted to different regions.
“Anywhere you’re going to go; you can tailor it towards that. It’s great to have that experience,” King said.
King added he recommends this training not only to civil affairs Marines, but to any service members being deployed. Knowing what to expect and having some idea how to help builds respect and allows Marines to make a difference, King said.