When on duty, Major General Eddy M. Spurgin is the commanding general for the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, but when stateside, he serves as the district conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Big Spring, Texas.
Spurgin’s typical daily duties with NRCS involve helping farmers and ranchers make resource-conscious land management decisions, as well as managing several employees.
In July 2009 Spurgin received notice that his division was being mobilized to Iraq.
Once in-country, Spurgin was responsible for all combat and stability operations of U.S. forces in nine southern provinces. He oversaw the actions and well-being of the more than 10,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsman, government civilians, contractors and local or third-country nationals within his area of operations.
While in Iraq, Spurgin was able to use his agricultural expertise to advance his division’s military mission. One of their duties was to provide security to the U.S. State Department’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT). These are small civilian-military units that support reconstruction efforts in unstable areas and assist local units of government to deliver goods and services to their constituents.
In Iraq, PRTs helped install agriculture practices such as drip irrigation, green houses and practices to improve production, water quantity and water quality. They also educated local and provincial government officials on rule of law, and on budget planning and execution, and helped get essential services to locals.
Spurgin’s experience with NRCS gave him an avenue to communicate with members of the PRT team and local population.
“Being a USDA-NRCS employee provided added value in southern Iraq because of the amount of agriculture that exists along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It gave me a common link with the members of the PRT and made communication much easier,” he says.
Since Spurgin returned to NRCS in October 2011, he has picked up right where he left off—aiding agriculture producers in obtaining their conservation goals and preserving our precious natural resources.
Follow NRCS on Twitter.
Check out other conservation-related stories on the USDA blog.