(FOX19) - Governor Steve Beshear visited U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Kuwait Tuesday, including troops from Kentucky, as part of a special Department of Defense trip. The visit marks the first time in recent history that a sitting Kentucky governor has visited an active 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," said Gov. Beshear. "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."
More than 2,600 Kentucky servicemen and women are currently deployed to Iraq and Kuwait. Approximately 1,000 troops are deployed from Ft. Campbell, as well as an additional 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 Department of Defense reached out to the Governor's Office in late May with the offer to travel to Iraq 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, Gov. 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).
He will return to Kentucky later this week.
"I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to meet our Kentucky troops as they continue to serve their country," said Gov. 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."