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Congress to get needed injection of members with military experience

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Rarely has a Congress so needed an infusion of men and women with military experience as this House and Senate.

Fewer than 110 members of the current Congress have served in uniform, and that compares to a high of approximately 400 in the mid-1970s as the “Greatest Generation” made its way from battlefields to Capitol Hill.

A nation at war and with many near-peer military competitors pressing it in the South China Sea and across the borders of NATO needs veterans, especially combat veterans, to infuse its collective experience with the judgment of men and women who have heard shots fired in anger, seen the sacrifices of solders, sailors, airmen and Marines, and who know, when it comes to equipment the SEALs say “Two is one and one is none.”

The military experience needs to be deepened, and polls suggest it will be, with at least six key challengers in Senate and House races. Not surprisingly, all of them are Republican nominees. Three are women; three are men. Three are from the Army, two are from the Air Force and one is a Marine. All look like winners right now.

Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., is challenging a legacy officeholder, Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., whose dad willed him the seat, but Pryor has gone native in D.C. and voters have noticed. NBC’s Chuck Todd told me on my radio show Friday that Pryor “may only lose by two or three, but you can’t figure out how he gets over the top.”

Cotton’s story of Harvard Law to Army Ranger and combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq is well known and almost certain to be respected and honored on Nov. 4 by voters. He knows the Islamic State. He has fought their radical islamist brand of fanaticism up close and personal.

So have Alaska’s Dan Sullivan — the Marine — and Iowa’s Joni Ernst, another Army Reserves officer, and a lieutenant colonel in Iowa’s Army National Guard. New Hampshire’s Scott Brown has also actually deployed to Afghanistan, though for a short two-week annual training whereas the others have spent long stretches in the war zones. All four would greatly increase the Senate’s first hand knowledge of the war and the Pentagon’s view of the world, and keep the interests and needs of active duty military and their families front and center in the debates on defense budgets and missions that lie ahead in 2015 and 2016.

In the House, two Arizona challengers deserve special attention.

Martha McSally commanded a squadron of A-10s and has flown in close combat support of American ground troops in Afghanistan. Think that is useful experience for a Congressman to have when the debate over the future of the A-10 and other aircraft continues in the next Congress? Commanding a squadron of fighter pilots is a unique qualification for any management job. It is an extraordinary one for a Representative.

In 1975, Wendy Rogers was commissioned as a 5th-generation military officer into the Air Force and went on to become one of its first 100 women pilots. She piloted worldwide airlift and humanitarian missions in the C-141 transport jet for several years and then was assigned to the Air Force Academy to train the next generation of pilots. She eventually passed 3,000 hours of jet time and was awarded a number of commendations, including the Defense Meritorious Service Medal.

A lot of different scorecards will be kept on Nov. 4. Pray that this one of veterans running against entrenched incumbents is 6 for 6 as every American will benefit from all of their victories.


This column was originally posted on


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