A tearful Governor Nikki Haley said goodbye to her military husband Thursday. Michael Haley was among 49 South Carolina National Guard troops who are deploying to Afghanistan for 12 months.
Mr. Haley is a captain in the Army National Guard, but on this particular trip he will be part of the 3/49 Agribusiness Development Team (ADT) as it works to teach Afghan farmers better techniques to grow and market their products.
The 3/49 left the McCrady Training Center in Eastover in a bus around 11:20 a.m. Haley’s unit is headed to Camp Atterbury, Indiana for a month. After that, they will replace another South Carolina unit, the 2/48 ADT, which had been stationed in the Helmud Province.
Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston, the commander of the South Carolina National Guard, says the Haleys’ story matches thousands of other families in the 11-year war. He said the First Gentleman will not receive any special protection or be treated any differently once he’s on the ground.
“The Haleys are another family in the South Carolina National Guard,” he told reporters when asked if he was concerned about such a high-profile soldier potentially in harm’s way, “I’m concerned about all of my families.”
One of those to speak to the soldiers before they left was U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a former Guardsman and current Air Force reservist. Graham said he believes the 3/49 was deploying at the war’s most critical point “in five years.”
“Why are you going (to Afghanistan)?” he said to the Guardsmen and their families, “To make it better. In order to leave that country with our pride intact and our national security bolstered, we have to leave it better than we found it.”
Graham said afterwards that it was special to have a governor whose spouse was serving overseas: “It’s a credit to Mike and his family that he would volunteer but the emotion she feels is shared by everybody. From the governor to just the average everyday citizen, these families are united. It doesn’t matter your position.”
Gov. Haley did not speak to reporters Thursday, but her office released the following statement.
We are a proud military family who understands the sacrifices any family goes through when a loved one is serving his or her country. This is what our men and women in uniform sign up for, and although Michael, like his brothers and sisters, is looking forward to his mission, we will miss him while he’s away. Rena, Nalin and I are proud of Michael and will pray for his – and all others’ – safe return.
The South Carolina Guard has been involved in the ADT program since 2009. Livingston said he was a colonel in Afghanistan when the experimental idea was first tried by South Dakota troops in 2008. “People in Afghanistan are like us. If you help us, we’re going to welcome you with open arms. If you hurt us, we’re going to fight back.”
He said much of the Afghan farming infrastructure was destroyed during the Soviet invasion of the late 1980s and had not recovered as the country dealt with three decades of war.