Gov. Gary Herbert greeted Utah soldiers in Iraq on Tuesday morning to hand out commemorative coins and thank them.
"I've enjoyed meeting with the troops and I'm proud of their service," Herbert said. "Whether you like the war or don't like the war, our troops are second to none and I'm much more appreciative of their service and sacrifice."
Herbert, who left Utah on Sunday, arrived in Iraq late Monday night with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. They are traveling as guests of the Army. The bipartisan group of governors were invited because of the large contingents of soldiers from their states serving in the Middle East.
He said that even though temperatures are well above 100 degrees and the landscape is barren, every soldier he has met has had a smile on his or her face.
"They are optimistic about what they're doing and are doing their level best so others can have better lives," Herbert said.
Herbert attended the funeral of Cpl. Raphael Arruda, an Army Reservist, on Saturday in Ogden. He said he was surprised to learn the 21-year-old South Ogden man, who immigrated to the United States in 2001 from Brazil, received his citizenship posthumously.
"He was proud to serve this great country," Herbert said.
He told Arruda's family he was sorry for their loss.
"We can't thank you enough and should never forget your sacrifice," said Herbert during a press conference call on Tuesday while visiting the troops in Iraq. "Too often we take for granted the great example America is for the rest of the world."
Herbert said the violent incidents in Iraq have become less frequent, but "a loss of life is still a loss of life."
Herbert could not say which troops he is visiting.
He said he knew it would be hot in the Middle East, but "nothing can prepare you for the hot weather. I flew in on a Black Hawk helicopter and it was like an extreme hair dryer or a blow torch. The heat is almost unbearable."
Herbert said the soldiers miss their families, "but they're proud of what they're doing and it buoyed up my spirits by just being around them."
The governor said the technology being used in Iraq is impressive and will have economic growth potential for Utah. ]
A predator drone system -- a large remote-control plane that can stay up in the air for 15 hours -- has Utah connections, Herbert said.
"It's like having a big eye in the sky," Herbert said.
He and the others have met with military leadership and are impressed by them.
"If us politicians don't screw it up, everything will be OK," Herbert said.