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Local News

August 16, 2011

Appanoose County man helps to improve agriculture in Afghanistan

CENTERVILLE — After working the night shift as assistant manager at the Centerville Hy-Vee, U.S. Army Specialist E-4 Frank Wireman and I had lunch together at the Konvenience Korner in Cincinnati.  That shift at the Hy-Vee had been his first since returning on June 24 after a year in Afghanistan.  Jared Henkle had given me his name, because the two had been there at the same time but with different missions and locations.

The only son of Robert and Katherine (Thomas) Wireman, Frank was born on Nov. 29, 1984.  Older sister Amanda also lives in Cincinnati.

Frank began working at the Hy-Vee as a courtesy clerk while in high school in 2002. He was active in 4-H and graduated from Centerville High School in 2003. He's been Hy-Vee's assistant manager since 2009.

With ambitions to pursue a career in law enforcement, he studied criminal justice courses at Indian Hills Community College for three terms.  

“Working full-time and trying to be a student was really difficult,” he says. “I decided the Army might help me achieve my goal, because the military teaches discipline, courtesy, leadership and teamwork. All these qualities are needed to be successful in law enforcement.”

In 2007, Frank joined the National Guard and was sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for boot camp and training to be a military policeman.  After returning, he became a member of the 186th Military Police Company in Johnston. Like all members of the Guard, he had training one weekend a month and two weeks in summer. When asked about possible working conflicts with Hy-Vee, he replies, “The management has been really great to let me off for military training and the Afghanistan deployment. I really enjoy working there.”

On Aug. 9, 2010, his company was activated for duty in Afghanistan.  After training in Indiana, the unit left for the war zone.

The mission of the 186th MP Company was interesting and unusual. The company became part of what was called the 734th Agriculture-Business Development Team.

“Our team was located close to the Pakistan border in Kunar Province,” Frank states.  “There's a lot of combat there, and we could see the mountains in Pakistan. Actually, we always worked in tribal areas and were never in big cities.”  

The team's mission was to help the local people establish and improve their agriculture system.  Frank summarizes that effort in these words, “Our organization was very elaborate and consisted of National Guard members who had special training in agriculture.  What they would do is train one person, a beekeeper, how to use tractors and other equipment, plow the land, plant and harvest.  And then that individual would go out and teach other locals.

Actually, with a colonel in command, the team was a joint force of soldiers from the Army Reserves, National Guard and airmen from the Air National Guard.  We had veterinarians, forestry and irrigation specialists and Afghanistan interpreters.  Some we could trust; some we couldn't.  We had an American female interpreter with the team.  Also, to help us promote our efforts, a Public Affairs Officer was assigned to the team.”

Another unusual element of the team was six women from the National Guard.  “A female medic provided medical and health care to the local women and children,” Frank explains.  “The other females taught the women how to improve their culture by teaching them sewing, soap making, sanitation and hygiene and other things.”

Frank's military police company was an absolutely essential part of the Agri-Business Team.  The unit was responsible for the security of the entire team.  “We'd be first to go into the area of operation and establish perimeter security,” he says, “and then the specialists would begin their work.  Locals were free to come and go as long as security wasn't compromised.”

“Also, when the team was in a convoy, we'd provide security.  Every convoy had to be aware of improvised explosive devices (IED's).  I carried an M-4 rifle and 9mm pistol.  Sometimes I was armed with an M-249 fully automatic rifle.”

When questioned about the civilians, Frank grinned with this answer, “Kids would throw rocks at us, and then they'd come to us and want to talk.  It was really just kids playing.  Some spoke English.”

Afghanistan's religion is Islam.  “They would pray five times a day facing toward Mecca in Saudia Arabia,” Frank mentions.  Pausing, he adds, “Liquor over there is banned.  Our unit had zero tolerance for alcohol of any kind.  The American men had no contact with the Afghan women.  You can probably see the reason.”

Frank came home for two weeks of rest and rehabilitation in October 2010.  “The worst thing about being gone is missing family and friends,” he notes.  His girlfriend, Sierra Walker, lives in Mystic and is studying to be a Registered Nurse.”

He reports that the employees at HyVee were delighted to have him back.  Smiling broadly, he states, “I sure missed the HyVee's biscuits and gravy!”

Sometime in the coming weeks Frank will attend a two week leadership school in Ashland, Neb.  “That's necessary before I can get promoted to sergeant,” he offers.

Wishing to fulfill his ambitions to pursue a career in law enforcement, he is training to become a member of Centerville's police reserves.  “I must complete the training before I can wear the uniform or carry a weapon,” he says.  “We meet at night once a week.  We have classes on criminal law and defense tactics, and we have fire arms training.  Students also ride with officers to learn.”

Asked when he might be sent to war again, and he replies, “If they send me, I'll go back.”

Area farmers and business owners can certainly relate to this story about Agri-Business in Afghanistan.  American farming technology and know-how is being taught in a war zone by brave Americans in hopes of improving the lives of people.  All Americans can be proud of their service. Welcome home, Frank!

NOTE:  For anyone interested in learning more about Frank's unique unit go to: facebook-search 734 the agri-business development team.

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