From the speech of the acting Secretary at the USDA awards ceremony:
I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge the special contributions of one of today's honorees, Paul McKellips from the Farm Service Agency. Paul has volunteered for three details to Iraq as part of the State Department's Go Team. He has helped draw attention to the plight of Iraqi farmers struggling to develop their own operations into a steady source of income for their families. Paul has willingly stood in harm's way in service to his nation and in service to agricultural producers. I do applaud that commitment, and I extend my gratitude to all of the USDA employees who have volunteered to help farmers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Currently we have eight agricultural advisors in Afghanistan and Iraq and another 18 advisors will be detailed by November. Last week, of course, I was saddened and we were all saddened to announce the loss of one of our brave USDA employees. Tom Stefani of the Forest Service was serving on a provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan as an agricultural advisor when he lost his life in an explosion. Tom had worked hard to implement a number of improvements for producers in Afghanistan including a poultry rearing facility and a cold storage facility. Tom was a respected rangeland management specialist in Nevada, and his colleagues there and, of course, throughout our USDA family will miss him greatly.
On a different note, I see Willie Cooper, long time state executive director of FSA in Louisiana (most SED's change with the administrations, Willie doesn't) was leader of a team honored for responding to Katrina and Bob Manuel was a member.