Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nixon Visiting Troops in the Middle East

Gov. Jay Nixon is in the middle of his first overseas trip as the state's chief executive, where he's visiting with Missouri National Guard members to "look into the eyes of the troops."

After a briefing with the Deputy Secretary of Defense in Washington on Friday, Nixon traveled to Iraq and then to Kuwait with a group of Governors from Texas, Minnesota, Illinois and Nevada.

Nixon's itinerary included meetings with General Ray Odierno and Ambassador Chris Hill.

Speaking in a conference call with reporters from Kuwait on Sunday, Nixon said the aim of the trip was to show support for the troops, gain a better understanding of how the Guard and Reserve units work together and lobby for the return of military equipment to Missouri when the combat mission in Iraq winds down.

"I think it's very, very important to support these men and women," Nixon said when asked about the timing and expense of the trip. "It's the right thing to do. These folks are stunningly committed. I couldn't be prouder," he said.

The trip was initiated by the Department of Defense, but Nixon wasn't clear about who was paying for it. He said he would disclose those details after the trip was complete.

Because of security constraints, Nixon could not say where else he will travel this week or when he would return to Missouri.

"I'm only allowed to talk about what we have done," Nixon said.

Nixon did not transfer governing power to Republican Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder. In fact, Kinder's office said they were unaware Nixon was out of the country until around 11 a.m. Sunday when Nixon's office contacted Kinder's chief of staff.

Nixon said the Missouri troops he spoke with most often mentioned concerns about making the transition back to daily life when they finished their tour.

"As we move down forces in Iraq, the focus is on what happens when we get home," Nixon said, referring to soldiers struggles with post traumatic stress disorder and worries about rising unemployment.

He said not a single soldier complained about insufficient equipment.

"The uptick in the armor on the humvees made a real difference," he said.

Nixon said the June 30th transfer of control to Iraqis was a key transition point for the war, and noted that Iraqis are now policing streets in Baghdad.

"The general sense is that they're looking over the hill, that progress has been made," Nixon said.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

No comments: