Military affairs beat: Soldiers help plant seeds of a future

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 16, 2012 - 6:54 PM

TPT Channel 2 producer Luke Heikkila spent two weeks in Afghanistan with a Minnesota National Guard unit called an Agribusiness Development Team. The result of his experience is "Bridging War & Hope," which looks at how the unit, whose members all have ties to agriculture or agricultural economy in the civilian world, worked with farmers and villagers in a southern Afghanistan province to improve their lives.

If firefights and bomb blasts are what you are looking for, tune to G4's "Bomb Patrol Afghanistan" instead. Heikkila's 30-minute effort, which has its broadcast premiere Sunday, is more about shovels and seeds than rifles and bullets.

It is a sincere and intelligent look at a daunting effort in a country stung by three decades of war and Taliban rule; where corruption is endemic and the literacy rate in the province hovers around 1 percent for women and 10 percent for men.

The people in Zabul Province, of course, have been tending the unforgiving soil for centuries. So what can a bunch of Minnesotans offer them? They work with farmers and merchants to set up regional collectives and supply chains to make sure their wares efficiently get to the greatest number of consumers.

In 2009 Heikkila embedded with the 34th Infantry Red Bull Division during their deployment to Basra, Iraq, which resulted in a documentary "Iraq & Back: Minnesotans' Stories," which told the story of five soldiers and their families during their yearlong mission. Heikkila was a one-man crew in Afghanistan, painting an up-close-and-personal portrait of the efforts of the soldiers, who recently returned from their one-year deployment.

"Bridging War & Hope" will be shown at 8 p.m. Oct. 21 on tptMN. It also has a premier at 8 p.m. Oct. 20 at Beth El Synagogue, 5224 W. 26th St. in St. Louis Park. Admission to the Beth El event is free. RSVPs are requested but not required by Friday, and can be obtained at www.bit.ly/QiJV2c.

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434

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