By Spc. Alun Thomas, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsJuly 20, 2009
TAJI, Iraq - Removed from their home states, continents away in the hot, arid climate of Iraq, it might be easy for Soldiers to become distant from the places they like to call home, as life goes on without them.
However, for some members of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade at Camp Taji Iraq, a base camp north of Baghdad, their states came to them, bringing with them a reminder of the homes they left behind to serve their country.
Governors from Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada and Texas made a goodwill visit to the 1st ACB, 1st Cavalry Division, Multi-National Division - Baghdad, July 18, and met with Soldiers from their respective states, while receiving a tour of the airfield and learning about the everyday activities of the 1st ACB.
The tour was a chance to meet the Soldiers and boost morale, said Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who said this is his third trip to Iraq since 2006.
"I'm coming in to see the troops, especially the ones from Texas, but also the other 49 states and territories," Perry said. "It's important to see them and tell them we appreciate what they're doing and (that) the folks back home are pulling for them and praying for them."
Perry said he is proud to come over and fly the flag for not just Texas, but the United States, by thanking deployed members for their service, adding the reception is worth the trip.
"It's awesome, the kids love to see us, but I think we get a bigger charge out of it than they do," Perry said. "It's great to see the excitement of everything they're doing out here."
The situation in Iraq is significantly better than it was in 2006 on his first visit, Perry said.
"It's amazing the progress that's been made in the country and seeing Baghdad getting back to somewhat of a semblance of normalcy shows what an impact we've had here," he said.
Getting to visit the 1st ACB while they are deployed was also an honor for Perry, who was inspired by his visit with the brigade.
"I've seen the Cav. back home at (Fort) Hood but never in Iraq," Perry said. "It was nice to touch hands, touch hearts and touch minds."
Joining Perry on the trip was Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who said the Soldiers he met from the 1st ACB are among the most dedicated people the U.S. has to offer.
"Our state (Illinois) is the land of Lincoln so we believe in patriotism and serving others and all the men and women I've talked to here have served with heart," Quinn said. "Everyone I've met on this trip has more than paid their service to others."
The trip is not just to honor those serving from Illinois, but every state, Quinn said.
"I really admire volunteerism and answering the call of duty because this is a tough deployment," Quinn said. "We honor every person from our state and every other state for standing up for our democracy."
Having the chance to visit and experience the 1st ACB was also an honor, Quinn said, who was excited to sit in an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter and meet enthusiastic 1st ACB troopers from Illinois.
"You can just see the spirit and ability here and it's inspiring," Quinn said. "The kind of enthusiasm and energy that each one of these service members brings to the job is important and that's what teamwork is all about."
An Illinois native, who had an opportunity to meet with Quinn, was Maj. David Dinkelman, from Chicago, support operations officer, 615th Aviation Support Brigade, 1st ACB, who said he was moved by Quinn and his words to fellow Soldiers from his state.
"Whenever you can get the governor from your state to visit and talk to the troops, it's a tremendous opportunity," Dinkelman said. "You could see it on everyone's faces while he talked. You can't beat that kind of inspiration."
The trip was a highlight of the deployment thus far for Dinkelman and he is certain all of the 1st ACB Soldiers who experienced the governor's visit appreciated it.
"I don't think you could find a Soldier who didn't," he said smiling.