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Washington Report

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Freshman Class for 114th Congress Includes 8 Army Veterans

The freshman class of the 114th Congress convenes Jan. 6 with two senators and six representatives boasting Army experience, part of a movement that is bringing a generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to Congress as World War II veterans depart.

New to the U.S. Senate is Sen. Tom Cotton, R-AR, a former Army captain who deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Between deployments, he served as a platoon leader for the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). Commissioned in 2005, Cotton deployed to Iraq in 2006 as part of the 101st Airborne Division. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 as an operations officer for a provincial reconstruction team. His father, Len Cotton, is a Vietnam veteran.

Also new to the Senate is Sen. Joni Ernst, R-IA, an Iraq War veteran who served in the Army Reserve from 1992 to 2001 and is now a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard commanding a combat support battalion. In 2003, Ernst was the company commander of a unit responsible for running convoys from Kuwait into southern Iraq, and her campaign ads included endorsements from soldiers who had served under her command.

Other Army veterans in the Senate include Dan Coats, R-IN; James M. Inhofe, R-OK; Bill Nelson, D-FL; Jack Reed, D-RI; and Jeff Sessions, R-AL.

The new Army veterans in the House include five Republicans and one Democrat.

Rep. Steve Knight, R-CA, is an Army veteran who is the son of an Air Force test pilot. He was born on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school, spending two years on active duty and six in the Army Reserve. He is a career police officer and member of the California State Legislature. He was elected to a seat vacated by Rep. Buck McKeon, R-CA, the House Armed Services Committee chairman who retired from Congress.

Iraq War veteran Rep. Mark Takai, D-HI, is a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii National Guard who headed the Hawaii National Guard Association. He has 14 years in the Army Guard and has served 20 years in the Hawaii State Legislature, where he has been chairman of the House Committee on Veterans, Military and International Affairs. Primarily a preventive medicine officer in the National Guard, Takai deployed to Kuwait in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a base operations officer.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-NY, is an Iraq War veteran, former military prosecutor and former military intelligence officer who served on active duty and is now a major in the Army Reserve. Zeldin deployed to Iraq in 2006 as part of the 82nd Airborne Division, and he started a civilian law practice when he returned. He had served in the New York State Senate since 2010, making a name for himself by working on veterans’ issues.

Rep. Steve Russell, R-OK, is a retired Army lieutenant colonel with 21 years of service, including deployments to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. A founder and chairman of Vets for Victory, Russell commanded 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry, which was central in the hunt and capture of Saddam Hussein. Russell authored a book, We Got Him! A Memoir of the Hunt and Capture of Saddam Hussein, based largely on his own daily journals.

Rep. Brian Babin, R-TX, has served in the Army Reserve, Texas Army National Guard and the U.S. Air Force. His Army service was from 1969 to 1975 as an artilleryman, with at least part of this time in college. He left the Army components to attend dental school, joining the Air Force for three years. The former mayor of Woodville, Texas, Babin won the seat in the U.S. House on his third try.

Army veteran Ralph Abraham, a Republican, won a runoff election against the mayor of Monroe, La. Abraham is a pilot and doctor who served three years, beginning in 1986, with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces.

“In addition to being a veterinarian and a medical doctor, I’ve had the honor of serving in the United States military as part of our country’s Special Forces. During my tenure both in the military and as a pilot, I’ve learned valuable lessons about problem-solving while moving pretty fast,” he said.