Ernst served as a battalion commander in the Iowa Army National Guard.

joni-ernstAndrew Reinbach writing at the Huffington Post attempted to cast doubt over U.S. Senator Joni Ernst’s claim that she is a combat veteran.  He wrote:

Senator Ernst calls herself a combat veteran at every turn — on her Senate web page, in campaign debates, and in her stump speeches. She can say this because she served in a combat zone.

And it’s technically true. She was company commander of the Iowa National Guard’s 1168th Transportation Company during its tour of active duty in Kuwait and southern Iraq, from February 2003 to April 2004. But the unit was never in a firefight, or for that matter attacked at all; it delivered supplies, and later, guarded the front gate and ran perimeter patrol at their home base outside Kuwait City, Camp Arifjan.

Real combat veterans I spoke to don’t think much of how the Senator talks up her combat duty. Larry Hanft, for instance, who earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge fighting in Vietnam, says, “By her definition, everybody who stepped off the plan in Kuwait is a combat veteran. Joni Ernst is using her military experience to gain a political edge and pull the wool over the eyes of the American people. She’s a fraud…” Mr. Hanft is one of Sen. Ernst’s constituents.

This is not a new charge.  It was one leveled at her by liberals during her contentious race.  Reinbach even admits that it is “technically true.”  Beyond that it’s legally true.

In 1991 President George W. Bush ordered the entire Arabian peninsula to be deemed a combat zone which includes Kuwait and Bahrain.  That order still stands.  Ernst commanded the 1168th Transportation Company that operated in Kuwait and Southern Iraq in 2003.  They also provided base security at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.

She has never claimed to have engaged in a firefight.  She said during a media call on Monday that she has also never claimed to have earned any combat badge such as the Combat Infantry Badge.  She has never claimed to be wounded.

Transportation companies have during the conflict in Iraq, as well as, in Afghanistan have been the targets of enemy ambushes of their convoys.  They have also been targeted with IEDs.  Ernst’s company was fortunate not to have experienced that.  That does not make them any less combat veterans.

The term has nothing to do with one’s military occupational skill or proximity to the front lines.  Unlike many wars in the past, the front lines have been obscured due to dealing with an insurgency that could strike anywhere.

Ernst said to reporters that disparaging her service was “insulting to the majority of men and women who serve their country honorably.”

Being a former member of the military who never served in a combat zone I agree.  My Iowa National Guard unit at the time of the first Gulf War, Company C 204th Medical Battalion, would have rotated over if the conflict lasted longer.  I remember friends who served in the first Gulf War express their concern about Scud attacks and the potential of chemical and biological warfare.  I also had friends who have served recently talk about the dreaded IED, not to mention threat of suicide bombers attacking American bases and troops away from the front line.

Combat veterans doesn’t mean having engaged in a firefight, but Iraq and Afghanistan has shown that could happen to any unit regardless of their role or location.

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