by Staff Sgt. Jody Metzger
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq (Jan. 6, 2008) – The prosperous rebuilding of Baghdad has reached far throughout the countryside, taking account of the health and welfare of the citizens. As security systems have been established, the focus of U.S. efforts in the area has shifted to aiding and building capacity in other needed areas, like agricultural and veterinary needs.
For nearly two decades, the agriculture infrastructure deteriorated due to Saddam Hussein’s rule. Oil became the county’s livelihood and Iraq depended on the value of its oil to be able to import the necessities such as food and clothing. The negligent response to their country’s needs further weakened the growth of agriculture and farming.Recognizing this strain on the Iraqi economy and populace, the 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, has taken special consideration of Iraq’s lack of resources by appointing Capt. Suzanne Todd, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., who serves with 425th Civil Affairs Battalion, attached to 4th Inf. Div., MND-B, as the division’s agriculture and veterinary advisor.
Well-suited for the position, Todd has degrees in international relations as well as agriculture and veterinary medicine. She acquired a bachelor’s degree in international relations from William and Mary University in Virginia. While completing her degree, Todd joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps in 1992 at the age of 21. She became a second lieutenant as a signal corps officer in the reserves after graduating.
After spending time in the reserves, Todd decided that she wanted to go to veterinarian school with the funding help of the military. Following graduation from Michigan State with a veterinary medicine degree, Todd joined the ranks of the Army as a veterinary officer.
Although Todd has achieved a stellar education, which could provide her with a good civilian career, she always felt the need to be in the Army. “I have always wanted to be in the military. It’s kind of what I always wanted to do when I graduated, but at the time they were downsizing the active duty military, so I joined the reserves,” said Todd.
The influence to join the Army came from Todd’s mother and father who also served their country in the Army. Though they didn’t actively push for their daughter to join, they were very supportive of her decision. “My mother was an Army nurse and father was in the medical field. They had both had good experiences.”
Todd’s interests in agriculture and animals and her tenacity to follow her heart have paid off. As an adviser for MND-B, she now looks at her career field as a way to helping educate local Iraqi farmers on more advanced techniques. Her co-workers revere her hard work ethic and her expertise.
“She is a great interest to our Team,” said Lt. Col. Arnold Csan, chief of the Civil Affairs Planning Team, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B. “Since she has been here, she has gone out on missions to the vocational college and the vaccine center, both of which serve countrywide. Her focus as an agriculture expert for MND-B has been behind the largest employment of young men in Iraq.”
MND-B has marshaled a contingent of solutions and support for Iraq’s progress toward normalcy. Todd has consulted with Iraqi farmers and veterinary hospital clinics and instituted a plan to redevelop the farming infrastructure.
“One of the things they have problems with is the salinity in the soil because their traditional method of irrigation is flood irrigation. They open up the flood gates of their irrigation canals and they flood their fields with water. If there is a high salinity or salt content in the soil, which there is, that ends up in the water.”
There is a way to reclaim the land, she explained, but it takes a while to leach that salinity out of the soil. The water comes in the same way, but they have to treat it before they use it on their fields.
Since arriving in Baghdad, Todd has advised and introduced new methods of irrigation to the struggling farmers of the area such as drip and spray irrigation, along with pioneering the idea of employing a new variety of high-yield seeds.
Along with her work with the farmers and their irrigation and crop-growing needs, Todd has also done extensive work relating to the farm animals, which are equally important to the welfare and sustenance of the Iraqi people.
“If you consider agriculture, it also goes along with animal agriculture. The animals that we raise to be our food – that’s where veterinarian medicine plays a role. We as veterinarians are concerned not only about the health of livestock we grow for food but how their health impacts our health. The diseases that the animals get can impact what diseases we get – [that’s] the public health aspect.”
The mission Todd performs so effectively and passionately is yet another piece in the overall mission of the Ironhorse Division and MND-B and her work in building capacity among Iraqi farmers and farm animal producers ultimately affects the overall health of the people in and around Baghdad and their quality of life.