PHOENIX - Gov. Jan Brewer made an unannounced trip to military bases in Afghanistan this week as she visited with service members from Arizona and flew around the war-torn nation in helicopters with guns hanging out the windows.
Details of the trip were kept under wraps for security reasons as the Republican governor quietly left the state over the weekend, though details about her travels trickled out.
The governor said Wednesday during a call to reporters that she jumped at the chance to travel to Afghanistan and that the trip gave her a deeper appreciation of the professionalism and courage of service members.
"You tend to forget that everyone is carrying real guns and they are putting their lives on the line," Brewer said. "You know that but until you actually see it, it's very different."
Before traveling to Afghanistan, Brewer made a stop in Washington. She met with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and visited Army combat medic Mason Steill of Chandler at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Steill's grandmother is a friend of the governor. The 22-year-old medic was wounded in Afghanistan in June.
"What a price they have paid. What a price America has paid," Brewer said.
More than 400 National Guard members from Arizona are serving in Afghanistan.
Then-Gov. Janet Napolitano made a similar unannounced trip to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007.
During the trip, Brewer flew by helicopter from the southern city of Kandahar to other bases in the country and ate meals at two military camps. She said she was struck by the country's vast mountainous landscape.
She declined to say whether the trip has informed any opinion she might have on whether U.S. troops should with withdraw from Afghanistan sooner rather than later. "I feel very, very confident that they are doing what they (commanders and service members) believe is right and they are doing it the right way," Brewer said. "I am very confident in their decision making."
The governor said she wasn't afraid to be in a war zone.
"I felt so confident in the people that are over here," Brewer said. "We have such a professional military. It's so impressive."
Brewer said she felt honored to be asked to travel to Afghanistan. "I was proud to be able to come and do that and talk to them and sit down and hear about what they are doing it," Brewer said.
The governor is expected to return to the U.S. on Friday and arrive in Arizona on Saturday.