Former Gov. Mitch Daniels' Newsroom

Contact: Jane Jankowski, Brad Rateike
Phone: 317/232-1622, 317/232-1800

For Immediate Release: Apr 15, 2006
Governor Daniels visiting Indiana troops in Middle East

INDIANAPOLIS (April 15, 2006) ? Governor Mitch Daniels is making a surprise visit to the Middle East to spend Easter with Indiana troops, beginning with stops in Kuwait and Iraq. In Kuwait on Friday, he conducted a re-enlistment for three members of the Indiana National Guard and in Iraq, he was expected to present a Purple Heart to a guardsman wounded in Baghdad. On Sunday, he will attend Easter services with Indiana troops.

The trip is taking place under tight security measures, and the exact itinerary of the governor?s travels is not available. Daniels is spending today in Iraq.

He started his visit Friday with a tour of a military base in Kuwait, followed by lunch with Indiana soldiers. Daniels and the three other governors on the Department of Defense tour then visited a base hospital and traveled to Camp Arifjan, where they were met by Major General James Kelley, deputy commanding general, Third Army, Coalition Forces Land Component Command. The group toured the operations center before joining troops for dinner at Camp Virginia.

Daniels and Lieutenant General H. Stephen Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, were asked to re-enlist three Indiana guardsman, Specialist Francisco Verduzco of Lake Station; Corporal Bernard Prater of Frankfort; and Sergeant Scott Drake of Etna Green. All re-enlisted for a period of six years. The governors departed for Baghdad after dinner.

?I wanted to spend Easter weekend with our troops and bring a little of Indiana to them. It seemed like the ideal time to make this trip to express our thanks and appreciation to Hoosiers serving our country. I want them to know how proud we are of their efforts,? said Daniels, who is the commander-in-chief of the Indiana National Guard. He is handing out specially-made coins that have the state seal on one side and the words ?Well Done? imprinted on a map of the state on the other side.

Indiana currently has 619 Indiana Army National Guard deployed to Iraq, 150 Air Guard supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and 140 Army Guard troops deployed in Afghanistan.

Today in Baghdad, the governor:

  • Received a briefing by General George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq
  • Saw members of the 163 SECFOR at Camp Duke in Najaf. There are 152 Guard members deployed from the 163rd, out of Evansville.
  • Greeted members of the 738 ASMC at the Camp Victory Medical Clinic in Baghdad and was expected to present a Purple Heart to Staff Sergeant Richard Blakely, from Richmond, with the 738th Area Support Medical Company out of Monticello. Blakely was shot on January 16, treated locally and returned to active duty. He is originally from Plainfield and went to Avon High School. There are 79 people deployed with the 738th.
  • Traveled to Camp Dublin, where governors saw an emergency response unit demonstration, then met National Guard and active-duty unit members for dinner.

The governor?s trip began Thursday (April 13) with a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, followed by classified briefings at the Pentagon with General Richard Cody, U.S. Army vice chief of staff; and General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The group had lunch with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who invited them on the trip, before departing.

Other governors on the trip are Tom Vilsack, D-Iowa; Jeb Bush, R-Florida; and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia.

Photos and other communications about the trip will be released as conditions permit. The governor is expected to return to Indiana on Wednesday.

Other notes of interest about the governor?s trip: