Gulley back to teaching role -- with National Guard in Afghanistan

HNHH Principal Jeremy Gulley.
Photo by Jessica Williams.

One of Huntington’s educational leaders will dust off his military uniform and head overseas later this year.

Huntington North High School Principal Jeremy Gulley, 37, has been asked to return to active duty help teach  agricultural techniques at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He will oversee the 3-19th Agribusiness Development Team that will be based in a coastal province in Afghanistan from August 2010 to August 2011.

Gulley explains that 85 percent of Afghanis farm, and they need help improving their farming methods.

They also need help in lessening their dependence on the Taliban, he says.

“We are going to do everything we can to separate, both physically and psychologically, the people of Afghanistan from the Taliban and radical Islamic fundamentalists,” he says.

In order to make that separation, Gulley explains, the Afghanistan natives need to be able to look to someone other than the Taliban for assistance.

Gulley says that if his team can help improve agriculture in the country, it will increase the likelihood of the Afghanistan natives moving away from the Taliban.

To do this, the Americans will create a model farm that will serve as a teaching tool for natives to improve their farms and remain in place when Americans are gone. Some of the concepts to be taught include pesticide control, animal management and seed purchases. Gulley says these things require money and approvals, which is Gulley’s main responsibility.

His role in Afghanistan will to oversee these contracts and manage the dozen or so projects the team will work on to make the country more stable.

“My job is to see that they get what they need to do those projects, from a funding per-spective and from the contracting perspective,” Gulley says.

This team is the third of its kind from Indiana. Gulley says the first two teams learned and shared lessons, one of which was that the projects are a bit more complex than expected. The need for a contracting officer was established, and through connections with the Army National Guard, Gulley was contacted and asked to serve.

Another thing he hopes to implement is a spin on an American agricultural development organization, FFA. Gulley hopes this FFA (Future Farmers of Afghanistan) can partner with other schools to continue the education.

Gulley says his team is made up of 65 people, with half of them serving in security.

“It’s still a very dangerous place. When we go to these villages, we are in the heart of Taliban-influenced regions,” he says.

While there are risks, he says, the Americans must go where the people are in order to encourage their separation from the Taiban, he explains.

There are 15 agro-specialists in the team as well, each with a military background.

Gulley’s military background is extensive, having enlisted at age 17, before his senior year of high school, into the Marine Corps Reserve. From there, he transitioned to the Army National Guard and was commissioned lieutenant through the Ball State University ROTC while in college.

He has served as transportation and infantry officer and company commander, and is a graduate of the Army Air Assault School.

Gulley went to Bosnia in 2004 for a year as a NATO peacekeeper, and did some work in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. In total, Gulley has served for 19 years.

Gulley found out about his deployment about three weeks ago and in that time discussed it with his family, the superintendent, friends, and  just recently, staff at the high school. He says he received supportive responses.

With little background on the goal of his mission, Gulley will begin training in April. He says he does know how to manage agricultural education, though, which is a part of his assignment. He will go to Purdue University for two weeks of agribusiness training,  then three weeks of culture and language education at Indiana University.

“Even Indiana’s universities are connected to this agribusiness development team,” Gulley says.

He plans on staying in touch with people of Huntington through the Internet. There will be a link on the Huntington North Web page for those interested in following his deployment, he says. Gulley also hopes to rely on agricultural experts from the area to help.

He will receive a leave of about two weeks in the middle of his tour.

“To me, it’s a good opportunity to serve our nation,” Gulley says. “Our country is worth defending and I consider it my responsibility to do my part.

“The hard part is leaving my family. I have three small children who are 9, 8 and 2. This is the second time I’ll have gone in the last six years for a year-long deployment,” Gulley explains, adding it will be hard to leave the teachers and students, too.

“But when you’re a soldier and have been for nearly 20 years, that’s a part of who you are.”

Huntington School Superintendent Tracey Shafer says the process of naming an interim principal for the 2010-11 school year will begin later this spring.