COLUMBIA, South Carolina — Gov. Nikki Haley's husband Michael is returning to South Carolina from his Afghanistan deployment in time for Christmas, officials announced Wednesday.
Haley's unit, comprised of about 48 soldiers, left in January for a month of training in Indiana before being sent to train Afghan farmers in and around Helmand Province.
Gov. Haley announced Wednesday that she expected her husband to arrive before the holidays.
"It's like having a baby. You know it's going to happen. You're just waiting 'til when," she told reporters.
The deployment was Michael Haley's first overseas since he joined the Army National Guard as an officer in 2006.
Prior to the deployment, he worked as a medical service corps officer and a planning officer in the Guard's Columbia headquarters.
Guard spokeswoman Staff Sgt. Tracci Dorgan said the unit returns at midday Thursday. A welcoming ceremony is scheduled for family and friends near the airport in West Columbia. The governor's office said she plans to be on hand.
In Afghanistan, the unit offered instruction for farmers with irrigation, pruning, fertilizer use and crop marketing. The effort is designed to help Afghans shift from growing poppies for the opium drug trade to boosting their income with other crops.
The agricultural mission by the National Guard in Afghanistan began in 2008.
The Afghan farmers have few mechanical aids, but many of their crops are similar to those grown in the Southeast. Their crops include cotton, peanuts, corn, wheat and barley, and vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, okra and melons.
In a statement announcing their return, Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston called the unit examples of what is good about America.
"We are proud of our great Agribusiness Team and their accomplishments. Under the command of Col. Todd Shealy, they helped create the conditions for a sustainable peace and stable society in southern Afghanistan," said Livingston, the State Adjutant General and head of the 11,000-member Guard.
The general also praised the citizen-soldiers for leaving civilian careers behind to serve overseas, away from family and friends.
"They and their families are true heroes," Livingston said.
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