13 February 2008

Senator takes break from "day job" to fulfill Reservist comittment in Iraq

It's only 10 days but hey, he's the only one doing it.

Colonel Graham is heading back to Iraq, where he will wear cammies, pack a Beretta and snap off salutes left and right.

This week, for the third time in 10 months, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will don a military uniform and go to Iraq as an ID card-carrying member of the U.S. armed forces. The Air Force Reservist is the only sitting member of the Senate to deploy to either Iraq or Afghanistan.

But unlike most everyone else downrange, the senator’s stay will be brief, about 10 days, comparable to his two stints in April and August of last year.

“I’d like to do more, but [with] the day job, you know in the Senate, it’s hard to get away for any long period,” Graham said in an interview with Stars and Stripes during the recent Munich conference on world security.

Graham served as an Air Force lawyer for more than six years. When he left the active-duty ranks in 1989, he joined the South Carolina Air National Guard, until he was elected to the House in 1994. At that point, he signed on with the Reserve, and is now an instructor at the Air Force Judge Advocate General School.

The Defense Department has given Graham special dispensation that allows him to stay in the Reserve. Graham said his schedule is now such that he couldn’t continue his service without some form of dispensation.

“I know it is something unique and different and I appreciate it,” Graham said, “and I try to make it a positive experience for DOD. ... I know my contribution is small and insignificant compared to most, but it’s what I can do. I want to do what I can do.”

As was the case last year, Graham will work for Task Force 134, which handles detainee issues and efforts to rebuild Iraq’s justice system, among other things. The senator indicated he would spend some of his time at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq.

When he is milling about a camp in camouflage some people recognize him. Many don’t. A few sort of know, but can’t quite place him.

“One guy came up, and he said: ‘Do I know you?’ I said, ‘Well you might.’ He said, ‘Are you on TV?’ And I said, ‘Sometimes.’ He says, ‘Do you do the weather?’ [He thought] I was the AFN weather guy,” Graham recalled, referring to the American Forces Network TV personality.

Read the rest of his (more serious) comments here.

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