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Father’s return from war a surprise for his daughter

by Clarke Davis

Carl Herring arrived home a short time ago from his second tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The first thing the 37-year-old Winchester man did upon arrival was conspire with a local teacher to surprise his daughter.

Valley Falls business teacher Sharon Porter used the ruse that she wanted a picture of the sophomore class to get the students to assemble around the flag pole outside the school.

1st Sgt. Carl Herring

It was an emotional reunion when 1st Sgt. Carl Herring surprised his daughter, Katelyn Gibeson, a sophomore at Valley Falls High School. He has been deployed to Afghanistan for 10 months. Photo by Clarke Davis

Herring came from around the building to the surprise of his daughter, Katelyn Gibeson. When the shock wore off, the entire class greeted Herring with handshakes and hugs.

The Kansas Army National Guardsman was deployed for 10 months, having left the day after Christmas last year for Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar, a providence in the northeast that borders Pakistan.

Unlike his first tour of duty when he was embedded as an adviser to the Afghan military, this time he was a member of an Agriculture Development Team working with civilians.

“We had a soil scientist, two farmers, a couple of engineers,” he said. “That’s what is great about the Guard. Their civilian jobs bring a lot of expertise to the mission.”

Life there is lived in the valleys below the mountains where he experienced village and tribal community life. There are also those who live a nomadic life, moving sheep herds south in winter and back north in summer.

He said it is not unlike the open range country of the early West in America.

1st Sgt. Carl Herring

1st Sgt. Carl Herring

“They have an arrangement with the farmers and village people as they move through,” he said. “They push their sheep farther up the mountainsides so as not to disturb the established farms.”

“This has been going on for thousands of years,” he said. “But it is changing. Many of the nomads are settling in one place and only sending out a few family members with the herd.”

Herring found the climate moderate even in winter in those valleys, but the mountains are covered with snow.

Farming there is primitive in many respects. A farmer might have a milk cow and a bull, both of which will be used to pull farm equipment.

There are a few tractors and they are used in a communal way to serve a number of farms. They have established some cooperatives among dairy farmers who can get rid of their excess milk for the manufacture of cheese and other milk products.

The agricultural team helped the cattlemen increase the protein in the feed for the livestock. Forage is hard to come by, but farmers use wheat chaff and add urea for protein.

“By boosting the protein content from 4 to 8 percent you could quickly see a significant difference in the body mass of their animals,” he said.

Herring worked with an artificial inseminator, who was provided a micro-grant to enlarge his bull herd, improve his facilities, and hire additional help.

The bull semen was good for up to five days without it being frozen as it is in this country, he explained.

“This AI specialist had a 99 percent success rate and had bred 5,000 cows throughout that valley,” Herring said.

Another project Herring and his team assisted a village with was developing a small reservoir of water.

It began as a small pool about 6-inches deep that originated from a source similar to an artesian well. It then overflowed and disappeared back into the ground.

The team was able to enlarge the reservoir, creating a source about 2 1/2 feet deep and measuring 150-by-50 meters.

“This was a large supply of good, clean water for the village,” he said.

Herring’s job was to get the village people to utilize government to their own advantage. They were not used to turning to the government or any bureaucracy to accomplish anything.

The development team supplied the financing, about $5,000, and the people in the village provided the labor.

The village also provided the security while they were working there.

“They checked the roads and guaranteed that we would be safe—they don’t allow the bad people there,” he said.

“I did love it there,” Herring said. “It was peaceful and beautiful. There was a terraced area with fruit trees.”

In a way, Herring said, it was like going back a century because those people have very little, yet they are not primitive or backward people.

“They are actually happy. They know they don’t have much but they say they have what they need,” he said.

A village may not have electricity, but someone will have a solar panel. The panel will charge a battery that in turn will charge a cell phone. They love cell phones and their use has become much more common in recent years.

“It’s a country that’s had nothing but conflict since the Russians invaded in 1979, but historically it was also on the main trade route — the silk road — between East and West for hundreds of years,” he said.

Herring visited a Muslim home and was invited into a guest room, which is separate from the family. He was served chai — a form of tea — and some small candies or cookies.

As for building relationships and trust, Herring said it is just a matter of getting to know one another and breaking down the barriers.

“They are very family oriented and when they learn that you have a family and loved ones they begin to identify with you,” he said. “Our military doesn’t allow beards, but my mustache helped a little.”

Herring is a career military man, employed full time as a supply sergeant with the Guard. He was promoted recently to first sergeant. He joined the Guard while a junior at Jefferson County North High School and while he has completed 20 years of service he intends to remain in the military a few more years until he has 20 years of active duty.

He is the son of Ron and Lorraine Herring, Winchester, and a 1993 JCN graduate. His father served over 32 years in the service. In 2004 he and his father were deployed at the same time, he to Kosovo and his father to Iraq.

When Carl was home on leave in April he became engaged to be married to Angel Toothman, a Meriden native. No date has been set.

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Posted by on Nov 14 2011. Filed under Featured, The Vindicator. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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