US Senators visit JBB to discuss mission, constituent concerns

Story and photos by Sgt. John Stimac
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Three U.S. senators came to the Oasis dining facility to visit service members and receive a brief on the upcoming responsible drawdown of forces, March 29 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

Sens. Ted Kaufman, of Delaware, Jack Reed, of Rhode Island, and Kay Hagan, of North Carolina, first stopped at the DFAC to eat with service members and civilians, and address any questions or concerns service members had. They then attended a command brief that addressed pending issues concerning the drawdown from Iraq in a more in-depth manner.

Sen. Ted Kaufman, a Wilmington, Del., native, said Iraq is the key to the future of America and the mission of U.S. forces is vital.

"This information (from the visit) is for us on the Armed Services Committee," he said. "We want to see the things that are going on here, not just in terms of Iraq, but things that are working here that we can take to Afghanistan."

Kaufman said U.S forces have been successful in Iraq and he wanted to talk to service members about what works and what does not.

"They've demonstrated that they're the best in history," he said. "I am really impressed with everyone I've met."

This is Kaufman's third trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, and he said the key to foreign policy is the armed services.

"There is no substitute to being on the ground," he said. "The problems always look a lot simpler when you're in Washington than (they do) when you are here."

Sgt. 1st Class Ricky Suggs, the medical operations noncommissioned officer in charge with the 13th SC(E) and a Fayetteville, N.C., native, said he appreciated the opportunity to meet with his senator over lunch while serving in Iraq.

"I actually voted for (Hagan), so it was nice to meet the person I voted for," he said.

Suggs said they discussed health care reform and what, if any, impact it would have on their state. He said he asked if it would have any effect on service members' Tri-Care, or active duty service members and retirees.

"Sen. Hagan is on the budget committee for our state, so I found out that the funding is already there," he said. "In the long term, over the next 10 years, it's expected to reduce the cost of health care and that is what lots of us were interested in."

Suggs said it was noteworthy that the senators took time out of their schedules to meet face to face with service members.

"They wanted to see what our actual concerns are, and they answered our questions without giving us the standard political answer," he said. "It was very inspiring and motivating to know that our politicians back home still care about what we do."

 

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Delaware Sen. Ted Kaufman, a Wilmington, Del., native, shakes hands with Soldiers during a luncheon March 29 at the Oasis dining facility at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. Service members met with senators from their home states and addressed their questions and concerns about current issues.

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North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, a Greensboro, N.C., native, talks with service members during a luncheon March 29 at the Oasis dining facility at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. Service members met with senators from their home states and addressed their questions and concerns about current issues.