AFGHANISTAN – A day after greeting Kentucky troops serving in Iraq and Kuwait, Gov. Steve Beshear met more Kentucky servicemen and women in Afghanistan Wednesday. The governor’s trip is part of a special Department of Defense trip for selected governors and marks the first time a sitting Kentucky governor has visited active war zones.
“It is an honor to visit with our servicemen and women serving in Afghanistan,” Beshear said in a press release from his office. “Their work and sacrifice on behalf of our country is extraordinary. I was very proud to meet with them personally and tell them that we continually pray for them and for their families.”
More than 9,600 Kentucky troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan. Approximately 6,000 troops are from Fort Campbell, 3,600 from Fort Knox, and 79 from the Kentucky National Guard. Combined with the troops deployed in Iraq and Kuwait, Kentucky currently has more than 12,000 servicemen and women serving in these war zones.
The Department of Defense reached out to the governor’s office in late May with the offer to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan to visit Kentucky troops. Other governors on this trip include Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.
After a briefing by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and other high-level Defense officials Monday morning at the Pentagon, the governor departed for the Middle East war zones, visiting troops in Iraq and Kuwait. In Kuwait, Beshear visited Ali Al Salem Air Base and Camp Arifjan. In Iraq, he met with troops at Joint Air Base Balad, Taji Air Base, Camp Victory Baghdad, and Baghdad International Airport (BIAP is a large military base).
Approximately 1,000 troops are deployed to Iraq and Kuwait from Fort Campbell, as well as an additional 140 troops from Fort Knox. Nearly 1,500 Kentucky National Guard troops are serving in Iraq and Kuwait, including the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. This brigade consists of 1,467 soldiers from units in Louisville and Southeastern Kentucky, and just deployed to the area this week. It is the largest mobilization of Kentucky National Guard troops since World War II.
Gov. Beshear will return to Kentucky later this week.
“I am deeply humbled to have been able to visit with our troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, and I told our servicemen and women that they are true heroes here and at home,” Beshear said. “I am very lucky to be able to return to Kentucky later this week, but so many of our troops will be far from home and in harm’s way for months. I call on all Kentuckians to keep them and their families in their thoughts and prayers.”