Trained for leading
When Martin “Marty” Umbarger graduated from the University of Evansville in 1969, the last place he thought he would wind up was in the adjutant general’s chair at Stout Field in Indianapolis. He provides leadership that makes the Indiana National Guard one of the country’s premier guard units.
• An Indiana feed dealer leads the Indiana National Guard.
• Marty Umbarger surrounds himself with good people.
• Second Indiana National Guard ag education unit on ground in Afghanistan.
Instead, Umbarger intended to return home to the family feed and fertilizer business, started as Roy Umbarger and Sons in 1939. And that’s what he did, but not before he joined the Indiana National Guard and trained for two years at Camp Atterbury.
For 35 years he managed the family ag business. Today, it specializes in feed for show animals, sending semis all over the Midwest. Watch for the white trailer with the words “Pulling for you” emblazoned around a team of horses.
In a way, Umbarger has been pulling for you, the average citizen, since 1969. Now he’s just in a different position to do so.
Ag training important
“One thing I learned during the guard training was the value of leadership,” Umbarger says. “It served me well running our family ag business.” He also cultivated leadership skills statewide, serving as chairman of the Indiana Feed and Grain Association in 1988.
“There’s really a lot of similarity between providing leadership for a small business and for the Indiana National Guard,” he says. “The key is surrounding yourself with talented people and letting them do their job.
“The military is more structured, and there’s more discipline involved. It’s a very structured environment. But you still have to lead people. My style of leadership is to give good people the tools they need and let them go to work.”
Umbarger was first named adjutant general by Gov. Joe Kernan in March of 2004. Later, the newly elected governor, Mitch Daniels, reappointed him.
One effort Umbarger is especially proud of is the Indiana National Guard’s involvement in helping educate the rural people of Afghanistan about agriculture. It’s a challenge, he acknowledges, but Indiana made a commitment to send four teams of guardsmen over three and a half years. He intends to honor the commitment.
The first unit, led by Col. Brian Copes, returned in January. Copes is now Umbarger’s chief of staff.
A second unit deployed earlier this year. Each unit consists of about 60 guardsmen, with some trained to help show farmers how to make simple improvements to grow more food.
“This mission is about helping people,” Umbarger says. “It’s not about throwing dollars at them. What they’re looking for are relationships with people they can trust.”
This article published in the June, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.