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Holcomb visits Hoosier soldiers in Kenya ahead of Thanksgiving


Holcomb visits Hoosier soldiers in Kenya ahead of Thanksgiving

Nov 16, 2023 | 1:06 pm ET
By Leslie Bonilla Muñiz
Holcomb visits Hoosier soldiers in Kenya ahead of Thanksgiving
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb shares an early Thanksgiving meal with members of the Indiana National Guard at Camp Simba in Kenya, on Nov. 15, 2023. (From Holcomb's official Flickr)

Indiana National Guard members stationed in Kenya — who will miss Thanksgiving at home and likely Christmas — asked Gov. Eric Holcomb only for more ping pong balls and corn hole bags during a visit this week.

“I think I can do that,” Holcomb told reporters of the requests. “(The soldiers) just ooze duty, honor, country. They’re so patriotic, they’re so focused, they’re so trained.”

Holcomb flew to Kenya — a neighbor to war-torn Somalia — on invitation from Indiana Adjutant General Dale Lyles.

About 130 soldiers serving with the Indiana National Guard’s Airborne company, headquartered in Seymour, have been deployed to Kenya’s Camp Simba since April 2023. They’re scheduled to return in 2024.

Asked if the Israel-Palestine conflict had soldiers on edge, Lyles said no — but that soldiers were maintaining situational awareness of that, China, North Korea, Ukraine and more.

Holcomb visits Hoosier soldiers in Kenya ahead of Thanksgiving
Adjutant General Dale Lyles, left, and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, right, talk to reporters on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, while in Kenya. (Screenshot of video meeting)

“I can assure you that we have trained the men and women of the Indiana National Guard to the highest degrees of readiness … to ensure that our country remains free,” Lyles said. “The soldiers that are serving at Camp Simba right now are focused on their mission at hand, and that’s to help rid this particular region of the world of the violent extremist organizations that are seeking to undermine the freedom of Kenya.”

The operation, dubbed “Enduring Freedom” has been ongoing in the Horn of Africa since 2002.

On other topics, Holcomb said he doesn’t yet have a new pick for the next commander-in-chief after former Vice President and former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence dropped out of the presidential race.

“I’ve been a little busy and have a lot on my plate,” Holcomb said, with a pointed glance at his surroundings. “And we’ll see what role Indiana plays in the whole process. But … I’ll be looking for the individual who best articulates a substantive agenda or plan, and more more importantly, how to execute it.”

“I’ll have my own test that revolves around what I hold myself accountable to, and this administration,” he continued. “And that’s trying to provide some certainty and predictability, stability and continuity. That’s what I’ll look for in a partner at the federal level.”

Holcomb is term-limited. Six Republicans, a Democrat and a Libertarian are vying to succeed him in a 2024 election.

He also said his administration hasn’t been questioned in an investigation of gambling-related wrongdoing. Former Shelbyville Rep. Sean Eberhart agreed to plead guilty last week to a federal felony charge related to a bribe from a casino executive for favorable legislation.

“President Pro Tem (Rodric Bray) and the Speaker (Todd Huston), they’re men of very high ethical standards. And I’ll leave it to them, as I have in other scenarios, to make sure that those standards are upheld throughout their caucuses,” Holcomb said. “We’ll continue to make sure that we’re transparent and hold people accountable if they cross the line as well. We have a zero tolerance.”