By Jenell Grewell | News Editor
Sgt. Robert Moore is not only a solider in one of the agri-business development teams (ABDT) in Afghanistan, but in his civilian life, he is a professor of agriculture at APSU.
Moore returned from deployment in early January. While in Afghanistan he not only did his job for the ABDT, but also taught a honeybee biology and beekeeping course to 16 Soldiers at Forward operating base Gardez, home to Paratroopers of 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment and 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion both with 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, as well as online courses to students back in the States. In the second semester of the beekeeping class, the students were from the Tennessee Army National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team (TN ADT).
Moore said he taught two sections of “Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping,” during Fall I and Fall II, as well as one section of “Agricultural Economics” during the full fall semester while serving in Afghanistan.
“The two classes on ground went very well considering the circumstances. I enjoyed teaching Agriculture Economics in the online environment as well in spite of an extremely slow Internet connection,” he said.
He said since the beekeeping class was on the accelerated Fort Campbell schedule, the goal was to meet two nights per week for around three hours each class meeting.
“Some weeks, due to circumstances such as missions outside the wire, or combat offensive operations that involved some of my students, we were only able to meet once a week, and on other weeks we met as many as three times,” he said.
He said times and dates for the classes had to be flexible and varied each week. He said the total number of class meetings, including tests and lab periods, worked out to 16 or 17 meetings over the course of each of the semesters with smaller, additional class meetings for students unable to make the regular classes.
“Combat missions in a war zone take precedence over everything else, and I doubt there were many weeks during which every student was present for all classes.
“By the same token, having the opportunity to attend a class was so important to each of them that I generally knew ahead of time if they were going to be absent. I did numerous makeup classes for three and four student-sized groups,” he said.
Moore said since the class setting was unusual, it attracted many visitors, such as civilians and other soldiers, sailors and airmen. “It was not unusual to start walking toward the apiary with two or three students, and end up with a dozen people trailing after us,” he said.
Moore said the primary goal of the class was to increase awareness of the importance of honey bees to the human food supply.
He said over one third of our food supply is dependent on honey bee pollination, and the intricate, interdependent relationships that exist between humans and honey bees.
He said the class is based on both his personal experience with beekeeping, a long time hobby of his, and a book written by Dewey Caron of the University of Delaware, entitled “Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping.”
He said both the book and the class focus not only on understanding the biology of this important pollinator, but also on practical apiculture training.
“It was exciting watching the students learn how to safely handle the honey bee colonies while gaining confidence in working the hives. I have no doubt, after witnessing their enthusiasm and emerging skills, that several of the student soldiers will one day become beekeepers,” he said.
He said teaching these classes complemented his work with the TN ADT. He said by training other soldiers in beekeeping, he was able to create and sustain many more beekeeping development projects than he could have implemented by himself.
Some of the projects he is involved in include beekeeping projects focused on training disadvantaged groups, such as widowed females with dependents, returning refugees and returning beekeepers. He said as part of the training, each family involved received two honey bee colonies at the completion of their training.
“Although the impetus for the families being trained was to gain additional revenue from honey sales and for their own use, the potential benefit of increased pollination was the primary reason for U.S. involvement in these projects,” he said.
Moore said many of his students were actively involved in the daily implementation of TN ADT apiculture projects, and his outreach to the Afghan people was significantly enhanced by the involvement of maneuver troops from the 4/25 Infantry Division.
He said almost every week one of his students would bring back information on Afghan beekeeping from outside the wire, magnifying the impact of his efforts in a positive way.
“By working with them in both the classroom and in my day to day work, I forged several close friendships,” he said.