Malloy visits Connecticut troops in Afghanistan

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy surfaced in Afghanistan today, the latest stop on a Department of Defense trip that secretly took him to Kuwait on Monday night to visit U.S. troops. He is expected to return to Connecticut on Friday.

The governor conducted a telephone interview with a pool of Connecticut reporters from the Associated Press, WTNH-TV and WNPR radio.

Susan Haigh of AP reports that Malloy has been to the Kabul area and to the Bagram Air Field, which is located near Kabul. In keeping with the DOD’s general approach to security for the trip, Malloy could not give his exact location.

“I’ve been able to meet with a fair number of Connecticut citizens. Some of them are regular service and obviously we have National Guard,” Malloy said. “I actually had dinner with about 20 representatives of the 103, which is based in Bradley. And I’ve met a number of folks from the 103 in a couple of different places in my travels. I’ve also run into Connecticut citizens who are serving in the regular Army, Navy or Air Force.”

About 80 members of the 103rd Civil Engineering and Security Forces Squadron of the Air National Guard, based at Bradley International Airport, were deployed to Afghanistan in July. Before leaving Monday night, Malloy met in Washington with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Craig R. McKinley, who is chief of the National Guard Bureau.

“I had some serious discussions with him about the future of our Bradley operation and the National Guard there and what their mission is and will evolve to be,” he said.

His stop in Kuwait was brief, about 20 hours. He visited two large bases and met a Connecticut man working at the port. “He specifically came back from the port so he could meet with his governor,” he said.

So, why should a Connecticut governor travel to Kuwait and Afghanistan?

“As governor, I have to take charge of the national Guard, and I’ve worked with them and there are a number of National Guard troops as well as regular Army Connecticut citizens, regular Army, Navy and Air Force here. And I’ve had an opportunity to meet with a number of them at all of our stops,” he said. “It’s pretty rewarding.”

Malloy said he oversees both the sending off and coming ceremonies, as well as attends funerals for Connecticut service members.

“I certainly wanted to understand what our troops are facing when they’re called up and when they’re sent to Kuwait or to Afghanistan, and I think it’s part of a support for them, it’s also part of a learning process for me,” Malloy said. “It’s an important opportunity, I think, which the DOD is making available to governors.”

“They invited a large number of governors, two of us could go on this particular trip,” he said. “I have to tell you, I’m proud to be able to make the trip.”