State Governors Visit Deployed Troops in Iraq, Kuwait
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2006 After visiting with National Guard, Reserve and active-duty troops from their states deployed to Kuwait and Iraq, four state governors reported yesterday they're impressed by the troops' dedication and commitment to the mission.
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle greets soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery at Kuwait Naval Base during a visit this week to the Middle East. Maj. Jackie Guthrie, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Govs. Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Jim Doyle of Wisconsin and Rick Perry of Texas left Washington Jan. 22 with Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, for the surprise troop visit.
Before leaving nearby Andrews Air Force Base, Md., the bipartisan delegation met with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, toured the Pentagon and received briefings about the global war on terror.
In Kuwait, they visited troops from their states at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait Naval Base, Camp Navistar and Camp Buehring, then traveled to Iraq. There, they met with Army Gen. George Casey, U.S. commander in Iraq, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and deployed troops from their states in Baghdad and Tikrit.
The governors, all with concentrations of National Guard troops in the region, called the opportunity to meet with their troops and bring wishes from home a highlight of the trip.
"I'm tremendously glad for the opportunity to show troops from Wyoming and from all over the country that they are very much in our hearts and minds," Freudenthal said. "This is not only a chance to see some of them face to face on behalf of their families, friends and state, but it's also a chance to see where they have been serving over the past few years."
All said they were impressed with what they witnessed during the visit.
"What you see in all of their eyes and what you see in all their action is a great pride and professionalism with which they do their job," said Perry during an MSNBC interview. "They believe in what they're doing there. And that is not only protecting America's freedoms, but also giving hope to a part of the world that really doesn't even know what those freedoms can mean to them."
After meeting with some of almost 2,000 of his state guardsmen serving on active duty, Doyle had a similar reaction. "The troops have very, very high morale and ... are very committed to the mission," he said during a CNN interview.
"The soldiers are incredibly positive and very much filled with pride for what they're doing," Freudenthal told Fox News Channel. They not only believe they're doing the right thing in Iraq, he said, but also that they're "doing it in the right way."
Perry called it an honor to visit Texas Guard members who he said "are serving our country proudly while carrying on the tough work of freedom."
The Texas governor said he's impressed by the reconstruction efforts under way in Iraq. "Obviously, you're not going to rebuild a country overnight, but I think this is going along very well," he told Fox News Channel. "I think it's going along about as well as it can be considering the lack of infrastructure that we here even before the war started."
Perry also expressed frustration about news reports of equipment shortcomings in the theater, noting that after meeting personally with the troops and their commanders, he's confident they have "the absolutely best equipment in the world."
"They've got the most up-to-date equipment," Perry told MSNBC. "They are protected as well as humanly possible."
Huckabee said his visit reaffirmed his belief in the need for the United States to see the mission in Iraq through to completion.
"We can't pull out. We can't simply stop what's being done," the Arkansas governor told CNN. "It would be not only a disservice to the brave men and women who have already served there, but ... to the future generations of not just Americans, but people around the world who need a stable Middle East in order to stop terrorism and to bring some sense of balance in the world."
Last November, the governors of Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi and Georgia visited deployed troops from their states on a similar trip.
"It offers an opportunity for them to check in with their troops and see how the situation is going," Jack Harrison, a National Guard Bureau spokesman, told American Forces Press Service.