Guardsmen learn 18th-century skills at Conner Prairie


Cpt. Stephen Spencer

Indiana National Guardsmen from the 5-19th Agribusiness Development Team spent last week learning blacksmithing techniques at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park.

The crash course in metallurgy, tool-making and blacksmith shop set up was a first for the Guard team, which is tasked with training Afghani citizens inKhostProvincein agriculture, irrigation, animal husbandry and pest management.

“If you look at how agriculture is done in Afghanistan, it’s very much like 18th century America,” said Maj. Greg Motz. “It’s all done by hand tools.”

Training Afghani farmers in both agricultural and blacksmithing skills is important, Motz said, because it eases their reliance and their dependency upon food merchants. For example, Motz said the farmers they have worked with have no means of storing their food, requiring them to sell it all at once, and buy it back at higher prices during the winter months.

“Everything we do, we want to put an Afghan face on,” said Motz. “We’ve given them too many fishes, and no one has taught them to fish.”

Training the guardsmen has been a rare chance to teach 18th century skills to people who’ll use them today in the 21st century, said Nathan Allen, manager of history trades for the museum.

“It’s been a unique challenge, because in the field these, guys are going to have to scrounge and salvage tools to set up shop,” Allen said.

The Indiana National Guard 5-19th Agribusiness Development Team, headquartered out of Camp Atterbury near Edinburgh, will deploy to Afghanistan in the spring. More information about the Agribusiness Team can be found online


By Jordan Fischer

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