Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) may not have engaged in any firefights while serving in Kuwait and southern Iraq in 2003 and 2004, but she’s standing by her claims that she should be considered a “combat veteran.”
“It was only by luck and the blessings of God that my soldiers did not encounter an assault,” Ernst told reporters Monday. “Just because I’m not an infantryman and I wasn’t kicking in doors, I don’t believe I’m less of a player.”
Story Continued Below
Ernst’s war record was first called into question in a Huffington Post article published last Friday that quoted a Vietnam veteran calling Ernst a “fraud” for referring to herself as a combat veteran despite only commanding a transportation company that never came under enemy fire.
Ernst’s Senate website refers to her as the “first female combat veteran elected to serve in the United States Senate.” During multiple debates in 2014 with her Democratic opponent Bruce Braley and in numerous stump speeches, she mentioned her status as a combat veteran.
Legally, the Iowa Republican is correct. In January 1991, President George H.W. Bush declared the entire Arabian peninsula a combat zone, thereby making all soldiers who have served in the region, including on bases in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, technically considered “combat veterans.” The order remains in effect.
Ernst has never claimed to hold a Combat Action Badge or Purple Heart. She told reporters Monday that to disparage her service would be “insulting to the majority of men and women who serve their country honorably.”
The 1168th Transportation Company of the Iowa National Guard, which Ernst commanded, drove across Kuwait and southern Iraq transporting materials from May to August 2003. The company then served as a protection detail outside Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.
Ernst was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014 and was selected to give the 2015 Republican response to the president’s State of the Union. Sporting camouflage high-heels, Ernst referred to herself as “a soldier” in the second line of her speech