In what could be a first nationwide, the husband of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is heading on a yearlong National Guard deployment to Afghanistan, starting in January.
Michael Haley, a first lieutenant in the South Carolina National Guard, will be part of an agribusiness team of 100 to 200 Guard members in Afghanistan, spokesman Pete Brooks said Monday.
Michael Haley declined an interview request Monday but issued a statement: "This deployment is the reason I joined the National Guard. It is important to me to be able to give back."
Gov. Haley, whose brother was an Army major who served in the first Persian Gulf war, said she was proud of her husband.
"When your family get the call, you have to be respond," the first-term Republican governor from Lexington said during a news conference in Greenville on Monday. "Do you worry? Yes, of course, you worry. ... It's like what I tell all my military spouses when I speak to other deployments; all needs to be well on the home front. And so we will be fine here, and he just needs to take care of himself, when he's there."
The son of then-U.S. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, now vice president, deployed to Iraq on a Guard mission in 2008, but a National Guard Association official said he was not aware of the Guard-member spouse of a governor being sent to a combat zone.
"This very well could be the first one," spokesman John Goheen said.
Michael Haley's unit will begin training today for its Afghan mission at the S.C. Guard's McCrady training facility at Fort Jackson. The unit will train through the end of the year before going to Afghanistan in January. The unit will return in December 2013.
Haley is part of an agribusiness development team "composed of Army National Guard soldiers with backgrounds and expertise in various sectors of the agribusiness field ... to provide training and advice to Afghan universities, provincial ministries and local farmers," according to the Army website.
Haley, a Guard member for the past six years, was tapped for his business background, Brooks said. He will serve as a liaison between Guard members and Afghan officials.
"The soldiers are from various units," Brooks said of the S.C. Guard members who will be deployed. "Most are tapped for civilian skills. (Haley's) business and financial background ... will be useful to the team."
Michael Haley works full time with the S.C. National Guard as a federal military technician. He has a business administration degree from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, according to the governor's website. He ran a bartering business, which lost more than $20,000 in 2006 and 2007, according to family tax records, and helped launch and manage the men's department of Exotica International, a clothing store owned by his in-laws.
The first gentleman irked some state senators last month by making a Facebook posting saying lawmakers were cowards for not passing a government restructuring bill that his wife had championed and referring, in the posting, to the deaths of three S.C. Guardsmen in Afghanistan. Some called for an investigation into whether Haley was politicizing his military post. However, Haley was cleared of any wrongdoing by the head of the S.C. National Guard.
Michael Haley said he had only one reservation about his upcoming deployment.
"The only thing that gives me pause is the yearlong deployment away from family," he said. "But, in the end, I can't help but to think giving one year along with my fellow soldiers, as many have done before me, to secure a life of freedom for my family is well worth all that comes with it."