Governor Chet Culver is on his way back from a trip to Camp Ripley in Minnesota. Over 3000 Iowa National Guard soldiers are there, training for their upcoming mission to Afghanistan.

“We are really impressed with the level of training that they’re getting here. It’s really second-to-none in the entire country,” Culver said during a brief telephone interview with Radio Iowa. “I’m really proud of our troops in the Iowa National Guard.  We’re going to have an historic deployment of 3100 troops — the largest deployment since World War II — and so I wanted to be here to show my support for them.”

Earlier this month the colonel in charge of the soldiers headed to combat duty in Afghanistan was fired, along with his second in command. The Guard has not revealed why each was fired abruptly for violating military regulations. Culver is expressing “absolute” confidence in the Guard’s leadership, including the man at the top who made the decision to fire the two men.

“General Tim Orr, the adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard, has been in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has seen combat in both countries,” Culver told Radio Iowa. “And that has been the case with our leadership team and to have that real life, practical experience as a commander, as the adjutant general, is just invaluable.”

Colonel Ben Corell, commander of the Iowa Guard troops who served 16 months in Iraq and returned home in July of 2007, has been assigned to lead the Guard soldiers in Afghanistan.

This past February Culver flew to Iraq to visit Iowa troops there and one gubernatorial candidate called it a “glorified photo opportunity.” Culver is defending his trip to Camp Ripley, near Little Falls, Minnesota.  “As commander in chief of the Iowa National Guard, it’s my duty and responsibility to do all I can to be supportive of our troops and that’s exactly what I’m doing up here at Camp Ripley, meeting with General Tim Orr, General Vogel and the entire leadership team so that we can make sure that these troops are trained and ready before going into theater in Afghanistan,” Culver said during an interview with Radio Iowa, “and that’s going to be the case after what I’ve seen up here.” 

Culver plans to take a trip to Afghanistan to visit the Iowa Guard soldiers there, when the U.S. Defense Department gives the go-ahead.