Association welcomes new Senate and House members to Congress 

Bill Loper

Director, Government Affairs

It is hearing season on the hill and when you walk the halls of Congress you must be alert because at this time of year a lot of "first timers" are wandering the halls often looking anywhere but where they are walking.

Your government affairs team experienced that firsthand recently as we walked through all six House and Senate office buildings delivering information folders about AUSA to the offices of all new members of Congress.

The folders include a copy of the 2013 Resolutions, the "Where We Stand" pocket card, a copy of AUSA NEWS and ARMY Magazine, the AUSA publication "Profile of the Army," as well as the latest Torchbearer reports.

We want to be sure that the new members are aware of AUSA and what our organization stands for.

There are six new members who are Army veterans and their packets included a request for information that will be in the next edition of the book "Once a Soldier … Always a Soldier" which will be published later this year to honor all current members of Congress who served in the Army.

The new "member-soldiers" are:

Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a former infantry officer who served nearly five years on active duty, completing two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, where he led an infantry platoon in daily combat patrols. Tom’s military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge and Ranger Tab.

Between his two combat tours, Tom served as a platoon leader with The Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery. He then served in Afghanistan as the operations officer for a Provincial Reconstruction Team.

He serves on the House Financial Services Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, joined the Hawaii Army National Guard in 2003, and in 2004 deployed to Iraq with the 29th Brigade.

She later completed a second combat tour in the Middle East.

She was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal during Operation Iraqi Freedom, was the first female distinguished honor graduate of the Fort McClellan Officer Candidate School, and was the first woman to receive an award of appreciation from the Kuwaiti military.

She serves on the Homeland Security Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee.

Tami Duckworth, D-Ill., is an Iraq War veteran and a former assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs.

In 2004 she was deployed to Iraq as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot with the Illinois Army National Guard.

She was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom until her helicopter was hit by and RPG in November 2004.

She lost her legs and partial use of her right arm in the explosion and was awarded a Purple Heart for her combat injuries.

She declined a military medical retirement and continues to drill as a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard. Additionally, she is married to an Army major.

She serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich., enlisted in the Army after high school and served as a rifleman in the infantry in Vietnam.

Later he joined the Michigan Army National Guard and has served for over 20 years as a military policeman on the home front during Desert Storm and in Iraq in 2007 at age 56 with an artillery unit in an administrative capacity.

He was medically evacuated from Iraq and retired.

He serves on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee as well as the Small Business Committee.

Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, joined the Army Reserve in 1998 as a medical officer.

In 2005, he served a year of active duty in Iraq where he was chief of surgery with the 344th Combat Support Hospital.

He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Combat Action Badge for his service in Iraq and is currently a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve.

He serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

Scott Perry, R-Penn., enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 1980.

He attended basic training at Fort Dix, N.J., and graduated from Advanced Individual Training at Fort Belvoir, Va., as a technical drafting specialist.

He graduated as the president of his officer candidate school and was commissioned a second lieutenant of field artillery.

Perry served as the commander of the 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion. He assumed the command in February of 2008.

That unit was called to service in Iraq, deploying in January 2009. The deployment ended in January 2010, after a successful mission, and returned to the base at Fort Indiantown Gap.

On February 5, 2011, Scott was promoted to colonel, and has assumed command of the 166th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, located at Fort Indiantown Gap. He is also a recent graduate of the U.S. Army War College.

He serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Homeland Security Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee.

The next edition of the "Once a Soldier … Always a Soldier" will be smaller as we lost five senators and nine house members and gained no senators and six house members.

Now there are 55 members of Congress who were once in the Army compared to the 98 that were in the first edition of the book back in 1999.

On the hill, Congress finally did pass a continuing resolution to keep the government running for the rest of the year.

It included an FY 13 appropriation for the Department of Defense which will at least provide some capability for reprogramming for the Army.

It is not the best deal in the world because sequestration cuts must still be dealt with, but an appropriation with reprogramming authority is a welcome bit of good news in a sea of bad.

Stay with us through this very busy time in the congressional year.