MANHATTAN, Kan. - It´s not unusual for neighbors to work together toward a common goal, and Kansas State University and the First Infantry Division at Fort Riley are doing just that.

The assignment: To work with Iraqi citizens to help strengthen their communities and agricultural operations, said Maj. Gen. Vincent Brooks at a recent training session where agriculture and community development specialists from K-State Research and Extension discussed an array of topics with top officers in the First Infantry Division, headed to Iraq. Those topics included the challenges of working in a government structure very different from the United States´, growing crops in low rainfall areas, and retaining and distributing water on a small and large scale.

The Fort Riley team also met with officials from the city of Manhattan, Kan., for insight into how local governments operate.

"Iraq faces three main challenges when it comes to agriculture: No. 1- water, No. 2 - water, No. 3 - water," said K-State emeritus professor of agronomy Richard Vanderlip.

He noted, however, that the region has a "rich history of agriculture production" and that it is one of the oldest agricultural areas in the civilized world. Crops traditionally grown in Iraq are barley, cotton, rice, dates, wheat, fruits and vegetables.

"Do something small and make sure it works," suggested Joe Aistrup, K-State professor of political science.

"Be competent, be inclusive, be gone" is how Maj. Chuck Dodd
described his vision for the soldiers´ mission in Iraq. Drawing on years of experience not only from previous deployments to Iraq but also as a missionary in Africa, he added that it´s important for Iraqi citizens to take the lead. That way, when something doesn´t work properly once U.S. support is gone, the citizens will have the ability to rectify the problem.

Although stationed at Fort Riley, Dodd also is a veterinary student at K-State.

"K-State faculty involved in this training workshop have made themselves available to remain in informal communication on an as-needed basis with the First Infantry Division command deployed to Iraq," said Daryl Buchholz, K-State associate director for Extension and applied research. "And, a commitment has been made to bring the leadership from K-State and Fort Riley together upon the return of the First Infantry Division - to review the lessons learned, the knowledge areas that represented greatest value, and other areas that would be useful in the preparation for such deployments in the future."

Source: Kansas State University Extension