On the heels of his Tuesday trip to Kuwait, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was in Afghanistan Wednesday visiting with some of the state’s deployed soldiers.
On a call with reporters from an unspecified location in the country, Malloy said he took the trip because he feels a “sense of responsibility to understand what [the troops are] doing, how they’re doing it and how they’re being treated and what their spirits are.”
“I think it’s important that American leaders, whether they happen to be in municipalities, or state governments, or Congress or Senate, have an understanding of the sacrifices we ask people to make on our behalf. And you can do it from a distance, but I happen not to be believer of that,” he said.
Malloy and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell left Washington D.C. for Kuwait Tuesday on a trip payed for by the federal Department of Defense. The governor said he spent about 20 hours in Kuwait visiting with deployed Connecticut residents before moving on to Afghanistan.
He said he had the opportunity to speak with residents in the National Guard and other branches of the military and has found them “amazingly upbeat.”
“These are amazing patriots that I have the opportunity to break bread with, or have a conversation with, or tell a joke to,” he said.
Before leaving Washington, Malloy said he met with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about the necessity to keep funding the Joint Strike Fighter program and defense plans to keep building two submarines in the state a year. Both programs are in jeopardy if Congress’s deficit reduction supercommittee fails to make required cuts and automatic funding cuts are imposed on the DOD.
He said he also had serious discussions with General Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, regarding the future of the National Guard’s operation at Bradely International Airport.
Malloy said Connecticut, with its large defense contracting industry, is a large supplier of goods and services to the military. The state has also “been called upon, since 9/11, to send our best and brightest to sacrifice on behalf of their fellow citizens and for the last 10 months, those people have been working for me, as the governor of the state of Connecticut,” he said.
Malloy said that while in Kuwait he witnessed the continued draw-down of troops and equipment from Iraq. He said the process “seems to be going remarkably well.”
The governor said he surveyed some of the troops about their job status when they return from deployment.
“Most of the folks who I spoke to will have a job they will be returning to,” he said.
However, he said he spoke with three Connecticut National Guard members who were not employed when they left to go overseas. Malloy said he would be championing the issue of making sure jobs and services are available to returning veterans.
He pointed to the recently-passed jobs bill which included an incentive for companies to hire recent veterans, long-term unemployed and disabled people. He said he is also encouraging the state’s insurance industry to hire “wounded warriors.”
“I think we need to make sure that we are reaching out to these folks,” he said.
While the military effort in Iraq is drawing down, Malloy said operations in Afghanistan are ongoing. He said he spent time around Kabul and found that security there was still high. The governor said he did see reasons to be hopeful about the mission in the country.
“On the other hand, you can’t look at the history of the region, you can’t examine the religious, the ethnic, the regional and tribal differences and say, ‘Gee, this is going to fix itself.’ You have to be worried and you have to be hopeful,” Malloy said.
The governor is expected to return to Connecticut by Friday.
Pool report for this story courtesy of the Associated Press