From Serving in Afghanistan to Engineering Software for the Future

    November 11, 2022

    “I was 11 years old on 9/11,” recalls David Morgan, senior software engineer in DevOps. “That's when I decided: I want to join the military. That was a real cornerstone event for most of this last generation of veterans.” Growing up in Tiverton, Rhode Island, David’s dad, a military policeman for 32 years, was a strong influence. “My father was in the National Guard, so I always knew that the military was going to be a part of my life, I just didn't know when exactly.” After completing two years of college, David was ready to answer the call. Now, a dozen years later, David has completed his own service with the National Guard. He is also part of Indigo’s Veterans ERG. His work to help achieve Indigo’s mission is a driving force: “At Indigo, I can see what I'm working on going towards bettering the lives of other people and benefiting the entire world,” David says.

    Here David tells us about some of the life experiences that led him to Indigo, and what he’s been doing now that he’s here.

    Tell us about your time in Afghanistan.

    David Morgan: I was deployed there in 2011-2012. At first, I was in Laghman Province, Afghanistan, on the border of Pakistan, then I went to Farah Province, on the border of Iran. They were two drastically different climates. We were up in the mountains in one, and then we were in the desert for the other.

    In Laghman, we were part of a PRT, a Provincial Reconstruction Team, it was part of the US’s Counterinsurgency COIN operations. Our mission was to provide security for engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and politicians as they met with Afghans across the province to advise them in government, modern medicine, and modern engineering. The mission overall for Laghman was deemed a success. That province was quick to modernize and quick to adopt Western ideas and policies. My platoon was broken up. Part of the platoon went to Kabul to do training with Afghan National Army Forces. My squad went to another province to assist that PRT security detail, and that was in Farah, Afghanistan.

    It was definitely a wild experience. We worked with many different coalition countries— Australians,  Brits, Italians. We also had a lot of interactions with the Afghan National Army. We got to talk to a lot of people—and see them not ducking for cover in a firefight, but getting to see them during their normal day.

    Did you like being there?

    David Morgan: Looking back at my time there, I did. Even though it was not an active combat mission, it is still a war zone, so there's still danger. When we were in Laghman, we had nightly rocket and mortar attacks just about every night. Actually, I was in a vehicle that got hit by an IED.

    What happened with the IED? Was everybody OK?

    David Morgan: IEDs were often placed along roads in drainage culverts. We knew where every culvert was on every single road. We would always stop before a culvert, check it, clear it, and proceed driving. But because the unit we were going to go help was in an active engagement—they were being actively ambushed and they had a down vehicle—they couldn't really retreat. We couldn’t be as cautious as we normally were. We thought: Hey, we were just on this road. We just cleared all these culverts. Except the last one before we got called back. 

    A 150-pound IED should have destroyed our truck. But luckily for us, they put these giant cement slabs over the culvert, and the blast hit that and created a ramp. Instead of the blast directly hitting our vehicle, it was this slab of concrete that hit our vehicle and just sent us flying. We just “Dukes of Hazzarded” right over it.

    So you get stuck there?

    David Morgan: Yes, for a little while. No one in my truck got seriously injured, just a couple of concussions.

    How did your time come to an end in Afghanistan?

    David Morgan: When I was in Farah, I got hurt. I ended up breaking my leg, I wasn’t able finish out the whole deployment with all my guys. I was sent to Walter Reed National Medical Center in Maryland. That's where most of our service members who get injured overseas are treated. That was a humbling experience for me, because I didn’t have a combat-related injury, being there with these service members who were amputees, or in really, really bad shape. It was very humbling and a very mentally strenuous time. It was a tough time for me, coming back to grips with everything. That's when I knew I had to get serious about school, about my future. I made it through safely. I was going to have a healthy, normal life. I couldn't take that for granted. When I got back home from the hospital, that's when I got really serious about school.

    What did you decide to do?

    David Morgan: This was 2012. I stayed for another 10 years. During those years I changed my MOS, my Military Occupational Specialty, to information technology. I was a computer science major with a minor in information systems at Rhode Island College. My thoughts were to align my military and civilian careers.

    When did the road lead to Indigo?

    David Morgan: After graduating I got hired by a financial planning company. I worked there for two years. But being part of the military and knowing that I was part of something bigger, even though your role might be small but the whole mission is important. I wasn't feeling part of anything at my current job. I just felt like I was cog in a wheel, so I started looking for a new job, new positions, a new mission.

    Someone from Indigo reached out to me on a recruiting platform—this is before we had internal recruiters at Indigo. I love the mission of Indigo and what we are trying to do. We are trying to help farmers with what nature does best—and I thought it was super cool. The whole idea that, hey you know what, we're actually trying to do right by the farmers, not just take their money.

    I got hired into a software team that worked with our microbiologists which was in an interesting space with really cool projects. I started to learn more about regenerative ag and microbiology. At Indigo, I can see what I'm working on going towards bettering the lives of other people and benefiting the entire world.

    What's your current role now?

    David Morgan: Currently, I'm a senior software engineer on the DevOps team in engineering. We help make the lives of our development teams easier. Similar to what Indigo does for our partners, provide tools to help them do what they do best.

    Tell us about Indigo’s Veterans ERG?
    David Morgan: There's quite a few veterans and family members of veterans at Indigo. We have a core of active members. We're really trying to see where we can best help our community and Indigo. We welcome anyone interested to join, you don’t need to be a veteran to be a part of the ERG. There is actually a huge veteran population, or relatives of veterans, in the agricultural community. We've been exploring ways to help expose them to Indigo to build that connection and keep the relationship going.

    What are some of the things you all are trying to do?

    David Morgan: We're looking into hiring more from the veteran community. There's no shortage of newly retired, newly discharged veterans from all branches, all with unique experiences, unique ways of thinking, knowledge sets, and expertise in different fields. We're trying to get more awareness out for veterans and build relationships with those organizations that help them find their way.

    What are some things that people can be aware of to have more sensitivity, respect, and awareness to the veterans we meet?

    David Morgan: When someone says, “Thank you for your service,” I know some people who love it and they live for it. Me, I always respond with … "Thank you. Thank you for your support." It is appreciated. I know in certain times of political cycles in the country, as a veteran you feel like, Oh, I'm just getting overlooked, or worse…

    When I was younger, especially younger in the military, I didn't put thought into PTSD. But then later, in more recent years, I understand mental health is real and PTSD works in different ways. Not all veterans even know what mental problems they have because everyone reacts to it differently. So patience and open-mindedness will go a long way.