People rely on animals
like donkeys to haul water,
food, and supplies from
place to place.
They also need an abundant
source of protein for their people
It’s really true that a country’s
agriculture is crippled
if they can’t diagnose
paravets, and veterinary care
workers get hands-on training
with the help of Kentucky
Air National Guard veterinarians.
The College’s Carney Jackson
was impressed by participants’
commitment in the training he
and his teammates offered.
In Afghanistan, horses
beasts of burden,
crucial for hauling
Carney Jackson meets some curious children during a market visit while on a trip to Albironi University in Afghanistan.
by Aimee Nielson
Shortly after he arrived in Afghanistan in 2009, University of Kentucky Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center Director Craig Carter recalls being rattled when the building he was working in was bombed. There was no mistaking he was in the middle of a war, yet he was not there to fight. Carter had come as part of a U.S. armed forces veterinary team to help improve the animal health infrastructure.
Carter, a retired Army Reserve colonel, has spent time rebuilding animal health programs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and even other Third-World countries such as Ethiopia. He believes such programs are vital to the nations’ future economic and health sustenance.
LDDC Director Craig Carter with Iraqi shepherds on a sheep farm in Iraq in 2008.
“In countries like these, animal health is of utmost importance, and it can be an indicator of a country’s overall health,” Carter said. “People rely on animals like donkeys to haul water, food, and supplies from place to place. They also need an abundant source of protein for their people to thrive. It’s really true that a country’s agriculture is crippled if they can’t diagnose animal diseases.”
Carter’s duties mostly revolved around implementing a National Animal Health Program, and he primarily worked with native animal diagnostic lab personnel in each country.
“The whole experience really helped me get a better understanding of how important our diagnostic labs are in the movement and transportation of animals,” he said. “I think I’ve got a better global understanding now. The veterinary lab system in the United States enables animal agriculture producers to keep animals healthy on the farm, and it builds confidence in people who buy our products. We really want other countries to have the tools to develop that same type of confidence.”
An Afghan local with his camel. The health of a country is tied to the health of its animals according to the LDDC’s Craig Carter.
Many times people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Middle Eastern countries are, for one reason or another, thought to be poor, apathetic, and uneducated. Carter said that is far from the truth. He explained that most veterinarians are quite well educated, having trained in Europe and then returned to their countries to develop veterinary medicine and agricultural practices at home.
In particular, Carter remembered a veterinarian he worked with in one of the countries.
“Here’s a guy who could probably leave the country and go anywhere in the world he wanted to go, and yet he stayed there to help his fellow citizens develop better animal health practices. I have to take my hat off to a guy like that because, like many others there, once you work with Americans, you have a target on your back. I respect his bravery and commitment to stay there.”
Carter also worked closely with Iraq’s chief veterinary officer to implement a field testing program for rabies.
“He was very thankful, because at the time, Iraq had no way of testing for rabies,” Carter said.
Carter is not the only UK veterinarian to leave the relative safety of the Bluegrass to aid agriculture in a war-torn country. Carney Jackson, of UK LDDC, is a lieutenant colonel in the Kentucky Air National Guard and has served with their Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team in Afghanistan for the past year. He’s set to return to the United States in June.
While Carter’s overseas work focused on local animal diagnostic labs, Jackson’s team was more involved with Afghan producers.
Carney Jackson on top of Genghis Kahn Fortress in Afghanistan during his deployment with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team.
The agribusiness development team consists of 64 members of the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard. In addition to projects in Afghanistan’s provinces that include grape trellising, pomegranate marketing, beekeeping, wheat production, and potato storage, they are developing training materials on pasture management, animal health, parasitology, and necropsy techniques for training local Afghan veterinarians, paravets, and animal veterinary care workers. Along with Army Veterinary Corps officers and Army enlisted personnel, the team is providing continuing education to students at Kabul University Faculty of Veterinary Science and Nangarhar University’s veterinary school.
“We are also coordinating veterinary medicine training with the director of training for the Charikar Veterinary Training Center of the Dutch Committee for Afghanistan. The DCA has veterinary field units throughout Afghanistan, which provide veterinary care via veterinarians, paravets, and veterinary care workers,” Jackson said. “We have provided teaching on sanitary slaughter and food safety for local Afghan butchers.”
He said he, like Carter, has been impressed by the commitment of participants in the training he and his teammates offer.
“One week we presented four days of continuing education for a class of approximately 25 veterinarians, paravets, and women in Bamyan Province,” Jackson said. “It was -10 degrees Fahrenheit, and the classroom was heated only by a coal stove. Most of the people walked more than 2 kilometers in the snow and cold to come to that training and then wore only socks on the cement floor of the classroom. It was evidence to me that these people really wanted to come learn.”
Although Carter and Jackson have served in very different capacities in the Middle East, their end goal has remained the same—to facilitate agricultural and livestock health so the countries can recover and even thrive.
“I came with gifts and skills and a desire to share those gifts and serve others,” Jackson said of his deployment in Afghanistan. “We are having success doing that. As for how it will impact me back home—I’ll always have the military on my mind as they serve here and hope and pray they and the Afghans will have a future full of success and the Afghans will be able to proceed with their country’s affairs in safety without depending on outside resources.”
Carter and Jackson said that’s really what it’s all about—empowering the local people to carry on the projects they and their teammates began. A second agribusiness development team from Kentucky arrived in Afghanistan in late spring and will continue the work throughout the next year.
“Carter and Jackson’s service reflects well on the college,” said Nancy Cox, UK College of Agriculture associate dean for research and director of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station. “We appreciate the fact that they are applying their skills to reconstruct animal health systems and empower locals to sustain their own agricultural production. It underscores how important health management and sustainability is to a reliable and safe food supply.” ◆
An Iraqi shepherd tends his flock. Sheep and goats graze on natural vegetation in Iraq’s foothills and steppes. Mutton is a big part of the local diet and sheep’s milk is made into cheese.
MANY RACING FANS watched the rise of Eight Belles in 2008. The Thoroughbred was the first filly to win the Martha Washington Stakes, the Honeybee Stakes, and the Fantasy Stakes on the road to that year’s showdown with Big Brown at the Kentucky Derby. An emotional crowd watched as she crossed the wire second in the Derby, only to collapse after sustaining fractures in both front legs.
UK LDDC Director Craig Carter agreed with Scollay. “It’s a very positive thing we are doing,” he said. “We’re building a comprehensive epidemiological database that will hopefully allow us to figure out why these injuries occur and how we can learn to prevent them in the future.”