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Napolitano visiting troops in Iraq

Governor Napolitano (file photo)

A covert trip to Iraq to visit with Arizona troops was the reason Governor Napolitano cancelled an appearance before the House and Senate Republicans yesterday.
She delivered an in-person “thank you” this morning to Arizona troops stationed inside the combat zone in Iraq.
“It is such a privilege to see these military men and women in person, and to personally thank them,” she said. “They have sacrificed so much and worked so hard. It is truly humbling, and a genuine honor, to talk to them and spend time with them.”
The governor met this morning with members of the 332nd Medical Group – which includes troops from Luke Air Force Base – at the Balad Air Force Base, about 70 miles north of Baghdad. While in Balad, she also visited Camp Anaconda, the largest military installation currently operating in Iraq, greeting troops from several other units.
Napolitano left Arizona on Sunday for the Middle East at the invitation of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. For safety reasons, details of the governor’s trip were kept secret, gubernatorial spokeswoman Jeanine L’Ecuyer said. The governor arrived in Baghdad yesterday for a meeting with Iraqi ministers and a briefing by the top American military commander in Iraq, General David Patraeus.
From Balad, Napolitano traveled to the Tallil Airbase, near Nasiriyah, where she had lunch with troops and toured the area. She viewed first-hand the operations of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) assigned to Dhi Qar and Muthana.
PRTs are relatively small groups made up of military and civilian members with expertise in a variety of areas. They work with local Iraqi business, community and elected leaders engaged in reconstruction projects.
The governor is accompanied by two other governors, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Brad Henry of Oklahoma. Because of Department of Defense rules, release of details regarding the remainder of her itinerary is also restricted.
Yesterday, Napolitano cancelled an appearance before a joint meeting of the House and Senate Republican caucuses.
L’Ecuyer said yesterday the governor had left town Sunday, but did not disclose details about the trip. She said Republican legislative leaders were sent a letter Monday informing them the governor would not be able to attend the joint caucus meeting. Additionally, a governor’s aide spoke with Republican leaders about the cancellation.
In the meeting, the governor was expected to field questions from Republican lawmakers about her budget proposal and other issues. It has not been rescheduled, but a House Republican spokesman said leaders were hopeful the meeting would happen in the near future.
“We’re hoping for next Tuesday,” Barrett Marson said.

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