In a surprise visit, Governor Steve Beshear met with U.S. troops serving on the ground in Iraq and Kuwait Tuesday, including several troops from Kentucky. Behsear’s office believes it is the first time in recent history a sitting governor has visited Kentucky National Guard troops in a war zone.
“In Kentucky, we truly appreciate and support the thousands of troops from our home state who are serving in the far reaches of the world, who protect our nation’s security and promote peace,” Beshear said in a statement. “When the Pentagon invited me on this trip, I jumped at the chance to meet these troops face-to-face and tell them personally how much their service means to us.”
Approximately 2,600 servicemen and women from the commonwealth are currently deployed to Iraq and Kuwait, including around 1,000 from Ft. Campbell in n addition to 140 troops from Ft. 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.
The defense department paid for the trip and reached out to Beshear’s office in late May. He was joined by the governors of Tennessee, Nevada and Utah.
Beshaer was briefed by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and other high-level defense officials Monday morning at the Pentagon before departure. While in Iraq, the governor met with Lloyd James Austin III, a U.S. Army general who is commanding general of the U.S. Forces.
“I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to meet our Kentucky troops as they continue to serve their country,” said Beshear. “I told each one that we hold them and their families in our hearts and prayers, and we are looking forward to their safe return home.”
He will return to Kentucky later this week.