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Wis. soldiers sent to help Afghan farmers

Published On: Jan 30 2013 12:52:23 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 03 2013 09:13:56 PM CST

About a dozen members of the Wisconsin National Guard are heading to Afghanistan to help farmers.

MADISON, Wis. -

About a dozen members of the Wisconsin National Guard are heading to Afghanistan to help farmers.

The members of the 97th Agribusiness Development Team were sent off at a ceremony at Joint Force Headquarters in Madison Thursday and will replace the 82nd Agribusiness Development Team in Kunar Province.

They will work with Afghan farmers on techniques to more effectively farm and herd, to expand agribusiness and to turn subsistence farmers to profitable farmers.

Current projects there include demonstration farms, education and training, and women's programs.

Gov. Scott Walker and Wisconsin National Guard leaders were at the send-off, along with family and friends.

As the soldiers sow the seeds of an Afghan future, they'll be holding strong to the roots back home during their year-long deployment.

"It's just a small time apart," said Ashley Suapaia, arm-in-arm with her fiance, Sgt. Shawn Vradeenburg.

"Get engaged and then leave for a year," said Vradenburg, "That's fine, right babe?"

Marriage will have to wait for Vradenburg's return from Afghanistan -- the first time he'll be away from his bride-to-be.

"We can talk over Skype and stuff like that, but you can't get the physical hug and care like that," said Suapaia. "Just the quality time of being with him is one thing I'm going to miss the most."

Shawn Vradeenburg's father, Corey Vradeenburg, embraced his son one last time Thursday before deployment.

"I'm proud of you," Corey Vradenburg told his son.

The 97th Agribusiness Development Team is now heading to Camp Atterbury, Ind., for several weeks of mobilization training before its deployment to Afghanistan.

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