An occasional series of chats with one of our troops.
Staff Sgt. Ben Groth
Hometown: Moville, Iowa / Age: 23 / Iowa National Guard’s 734th Agribusiness Development Team
Air Force Staff Sgt. Ben Groth, 23, of Moville, near a small greenhouse that he and others in the Iowa National Guard's 734th Agribusiness Development Team built near their barracks at Forward Operating Base Wright, Afghanistan. This is Groth's first deployment. (Photo by Alyssa Schukar/The World-Herald)
Q: You and other members of the agribusiness team built the greenhouse behind you, right?
A: It’s a fun thing that we’re doing in our spare time, planting a garden. We have this one here and then a bigger one over there. We have radishes and tomatoes and carrots. . . . When we have work to do, we do the work first, but on good days, like Friday, which is kind of our down day, we work on it a lot. It’s kind of a spare time deal.
Q: Do you have a farming background?
A: I actually farm with my father right now. We just raise corn and soybeans, and we have a thousand head of cattle . . . on 1,800 acres.
I’ve been learning all kinds of stuff from the Afghans. They’re actually really smart people. They really know what they’re doing. We use big tractors. We’re more mechanized, but (the Afghans) do everything by hand. They don’t farm here as much as we do. They just don’t have the resources to do it like we do back home.
Q: You said that you’ve been in the Air Force for about five years now. What has it been like with all of these Army guys?
A: When I heard about this deployment, they said it was like an agribusiness development (mission), and they were kind of looking for people with an ag background. That kind of keyed me in on it. . . . As it progressed, we were told we’d be deploying with the Army. . . . In the Air Force, I’m a hydraulic mechanic, so we’d never be on a base this small out in the middle of Nowhere, Afghanistan. I’d be on a bigger base somewhere like Bagram or something, working on aircraft, never going outside of the wire.
It’s just quite an experience, being here around these people, seeing what they’re like, because I’d really never been out of the U.S. before.