COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Gov. Nikki Haley's husband, Michael, will return home from a nearly year-long military deployment to Afghanistan about noon Thursday, the S.C. National Guard announced Wednesday.
Haley, a captain in the Guard, is the first spouse of a sitting governor to deploy to a combat zone with the National Guard, the governor's office believes. He was part of an agriculture-training group that worked with Afghan farmers.
More than 40 members of Agribusiness Development Team 3-49 will return to Columbia International Airport about 12:30 p.m., the Guard said. The unit left in January and spent a month training in Indiana before heading to Afghanistan.
"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 Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston Jr., adjutant general of the S.C. National Guard. "These soldiers are examples of what is so good about America, our citizen-soldiers who put aside their civilian careers, families and personal concerns to care for the needs of our nation. They and their families are true heroes."
More than 300 additional S.C. National Guard members, now deployed to Afghanistan, also are expected to return to the Palmetto State over the holidays, Guard spokeswoman Maj. Cindi King said.
"We will have more than 400 soldiers and airmen still in Afghanistan after that," said King, adding those Guard personnel include medics, military police, engineers and support personal.
During a furlough in May, Michael Haley said he had been in Helmand Province, working with Afghan farmers to replace their poppy crops -- converted into heroin -- with food crops. He also said he had acquired the nickname FGOSC -- pronounced "fuh GOSK", short for "first gentleman of South Carolina" -- during his deployment.
Haley kept up with happenings in the governor's office by receiving daily news clippings assembled by his wife's staff. He returns as Nikki Haley, a first-term Republican, seeks re-election next year.
Nikki Haley posted several photos of her husband during his deployment on her Facebook page.
Michael Haley joined the Guard in 2006, while his wife was a state representative from Lexington.
Staff writer Jeff Wilkinson contributed.