62 honored at USDA headquarters for their efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan
WASHINGTON, June 12, 2012 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently recognized the efforts of 62 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees who have helped revitalize the agricultural sectors in Afghanistan and Iraq. Among those honored during a ceremony June 4 was Lief Christenson of North Bend, Wash., who served as the Regional Command East water resources advisor in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012.
"I’m honored to recognize these brave and devoted men and women for their tremendous service to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq," said Vilsack. "These USDA employees have played a vital role in furthering political and social stability throughout the world by building a foundation on which the economies of these countries will prosper."
USDA agricultural advisors began serving in Afghanistan in 2003 and Iraq in 2006. Their goal has been to help Afghanistan and Iraq rebuild their agricultural sectors by planning and implementing reconstruction and agricultural development projects. Activities vary depending on the needs of the area, but can range from mentoring local agricultural officials to improving food and animal production and marketing systems to veterinary infrastructure, soil and water conservation, and reclamation programs. Advisors working at the national government level help build the capacity of government ministries and collaborate with ministry staff to develop long-term strategies for agricultural development. In Afghanistan, Christenson used his expertise in geology and hydrology to assist units throughout the Regional Command East with water storage and conveyance systems and watershed restorations. Christenson works for the engineering firm of CDM Smith in Bellevue, Wash., which he left to serve in Afghanistan. Christenson also served with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan from 2008-2010. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1982 and a Master of Science in 1986 from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash. Both degrees were in geology.
Since 2003, more than 250 USDA personnel have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 50 agricultural advisors are currently assigned there.
To learn more about USDA’s efforts in those countries, visit