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Gary Domian

NH NRCS Employee on Front Lines of Afghan Reconstruction

Editor's Note: Gary Domian, New Hampshire NRCS's Assistant State Conservationist for Operations, is on a foreign assignment, serving in Afghanistan.  Gary left New Hampshire in mid February 2007 and will return home toward the end of April 2008.


By Matt Negrin
Originally published in the Manchester Union Leader

Gary Domian, who has poured his efforts into rebuilding Afghanistan's agriculture system for the last year, has seen terrorists detonate themselves just feet away from him, malnourished women and children struggle to survive, and the hopes of the Afghan people come to life in new domestic programs.

And yesterday the 58-year-old soil scientist from Durham got to tell President Bush all about it -- in three minutes. Hours before the video conference between 11 workers stationed in Kabul and the White House, a suicide bomber had wounded four men Domian has worked with and killed a number of Afghan civilians.


Gary Domian with Afghan children"This is just the way it is," said Domian, a 1973 graduate of the University of New Hampshire. "It's the environment we work in."

Domian, in a telephone interview after his video conference, said he told the president his team is making progress in improving outdated irrigation systems and creating a program that allows women to cultivate poultry without men feeling socially intimidated. He said he and the 10 others, some of whom are military personnel, are all working to improve the life of the Afghan people.

Bush, Domian said, "felt strongly that the civilian presence working with the military is a model that has to be maintained in Afghanistan."

Domian, who works for the U.S. Agriculture Department's Natural Resources Conservation Service, first offered his services to the reconstruction of Afghanistan in 2004 and worked for six months in the southern Kandahar Province. In March of last year Domian went to work in Farah, a western province on Iran's border. His tour was extended by four months and is scheduled to end at the end of April.

Domian was born and raised in Manchester. After attending Bishop Bradley High School, now Trinity High School, he earned a degree in soil and water sciences from UNH in 1973. He has 37 years of experience in the field and has helped in aiding areas ravaged by hurricanes, including in the Dominican Republic and in New Orleans.

Because he is working with civilians, he travels with bolstered security convoys. He says he's not scared of dying, but insists he isn't brave.

"I think it's more of . . . I put it aside," he said. "We went out fully armored. We wore helmets. We wore vests. We're in armored vehicles. You put it aside because it's a war zone. We understood that. I think it's a matter of fate. What's going to happen is going to happen." Domian said that in speaking to Bush -- who he said is an "excellent listener" -- those sitting at the table addressed the theme that is the mission of reconstruction teams.

"We're all going in the same direction," he said. "We're all going toward security. We're all working toward governance, and we're all working toward development . . . You have your civilian and military partners working together."

The president praised the work civilians have accomplished along with the military in Afghanistan.

"If you look on the screen you see brave and courageous Americans in uniform and not in uniform, because they're a part of this strategy to help Afghans," Bush told them, according to a White House transcript.

The satellite meeting with the president was enough to solidify Domian's beliefs that he is working for a good and practical cause.

"It's a reaffirmation as to why I'm here," he said. "I truly believe the president and the people of the United States do support this. . . . I'm very proud to be here, and I'd do it again. And I just might."

By Matt Negrin
Originally published in the Manchester Union Leader