My time visiting Kentucky soldiers in the Middle East continues to be a moving experience.
One of the most interesting stories – and most unique missions – involving American troops in Afghanistan surrounds the AgriBusiness Development Teams.
These are hand-picked soldiers who are teaching sustainable agricultural practices – both how to farm and how to turn it into a successful business -- to villagers in remote areas.
Sort of like battle-ready agricultural extension agents working toward peace in a country long torn by violence, these farmer-soldiers have also been very successful with empowering Afghani women in the agricultural economy – a new phenomenon in that region.
I got to spend time with Kentucky’s third ADT stationed in Afghanistan – a Kentucky National Guard Unit headed by Col. Neil Mullaney – today while visiting troops in the Middle East.
It’s the third day of a trip set up and funded by the Department of Defense for governors of states where a large number of troops live or are based.
It’s the first time in recent history that a sitting Kentucky governor has visited an active war zone.
Today I visited troops in Kabul, Kandahar and Bagram.
In addition to visiting the ADT, I got to spend time with several dozen soldiers from the 101st Airborne based at Fort Campbell.
My admiration for the job our Kentucky soldiers are doing in these difficult geographic, social, and political circumstances continues to grow.
I’m amazed at their enthusiasm and confidence. They really feel they are making a big difference in the region, bringing peace and security – not to mention economic progress.
I assured the soldiers that all of Kentucky is thinking about them and praying for their safe return. They in turn asked me to send their love back to their families and communities.
We took a lot of pictures around a Kentucky flag, and they talked a lot about the coming football game between the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville. In fact, they took a poll on who they think will win the game (but made me vow not to tell).
All told, 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.
Earlier this week I visited troops stationed in Iraq and Kuwait, eating and talking with them.
Combined with the troops deployed in Iraq and Kuwait, Kentucky currently has more than 12,000 servicemen and women serving in these war zones.
All of Kentucky should be proud of them.
I’m privileged to have seen their dedication, their professionalism and their courage in person.