Watch a slideshow of his trip here:
My bag arrived late last night. Whew.
We toured an agricultural college, ag research farm and met with the Senior Deputy Minister of Agriculture of Iraq, the Director General for Agriculture for the Karbala province and the Karbala providential reconstruction team today, but I must say, the highlight of the trip was having lunch with the 413 Civil Affairs Battalion, Bravo Company, based in Lubbock, Texas, and other Texas soldiers.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Todd Staples, has lunch with fellow Texans from the 413th Civil Affairs Battalion Bravo Company based out of Lubbock, TX and the 177th Field Artillery Unit based out of Schweinfurt, Germany at FOB Husayniyah in Karbala, Iraq on Thursday, March 26, 2009. Department of Defense Photo by Tina Hager
These fine Texas soldiers have been in Iraq since last fall. They are stationed at Forward Operating Base Husayniyah.
I told them how grateful and appreciative all Texans are for their sacrifices and service. They gave me both an American and Texas flag flown over the base.
U.S. Army Spc. Dennis Harris of Lubbock, TX presents a United States flag to Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples at FOB Husayniyah in Karbala, Iraq on Thursday, March 26, 2009. The Commissioner was visiting Iraq as part of a trade and development mission promoting Texas products and agriculture initiatives. SPC Harris is a member of the 413th Civil Affairs Battalion Bravo Company based out of Lubbock, TX. Department of Defense Photo by Tina Hager
These soldiers represent the best of America. Please join me in asking God's blessings on them and their families, and to bring them home safely and soundly.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Todd Staples, poses for a photo with troops from Texas from the 413th Civil Affairs Battalion Bravo Company based out of Lubbock, TX and the 177th Field Artillery Unit based out of Schweinfurt, Germany at FOB Husayniyah in Karbala, Iraq. March 26, 2009. Department of Defense Photo by Tina Hager
I have a major announcement: I am told my luggage is in Kuwait! I haven't seen it yet, but have it from an official source it is on its way.
We joined the Director for TFBSO at dinner with several U.S. generals, the Iraq Minister of Industry and Minerals, the Chairman of Iraq Investment Commission and the spokesperson for the government of Iraq (all PhD's with extensive international educations including the investment minister receiving all his degrees in the USA) to discuss Iraqi redevelopment and progress.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples meets with an Iraqi agriculture expert during a visit to the Karbala Greenhouse Extension in Karbala, Iraq on Thursday, March 26, 2009. Department of Defense Photo by Tina Hager
Their focus and strategy was about developing partnerships and ensuring a stable environment for investment and development.
It is estimated over 75 percent of the lands in Iraq are owned by the government (compared to 97 percent privately owned in Texas). The government of Iraq is contemplating allowing for the private ownership of some commercial real estate development, including allowing for international ownership.
One thing is certain, the sooner the Iraq economy is stabilized and reinvigorated, the sooner our brave troops can come home. I am thankful our Department of Defense, Texas A & M staff and U.S. companies are working so hard to facilitate development so our valiant military can head home.