Illinois congressman deploys to southwest border mission as Guardsman

Rep. Adam Kinzinger deployed with his Air National Guard unit to Arizona.

February 14, 2019, 3:40 PM

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., has been deployed to the southwest border with his Wisconsin Air National Guard unit, his congressional office has confirmed.

The five-term Illinois congressman has served as a pilot with the Wisconsin Air National Guard for years and will be deployed to Arizona for two weeks. He has served three previous tours along the southwest border and has also deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Earlier this week, Congressman Kinzinger was deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border with his Air National Guard unit, and is serving on active duty in his capacity as lieutenant colonel," said Maura Gillespie, a spokeswoman for Kinzinger's office. "As with his previous border missions while elected, the congressman will stay within the United States."

PHOTO: Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Ill-R. in a picture posted on his campaign's official Facebook page.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Ill-R. in a picture posted on his campaign's official Facebook page.
Adam Kinzinger/Facebook

In an interview with the Chicago Sun Times, the Republican congressman said he would be deploying to the Tucson area for two weeks.

Kinzinger pilots the RC-26 Metroliner, a reconnaissance aircraft equipped with cameras and sensors, that has been used on counternarcotics missions stateside and for intelligence gathering overseas.

"As always, our Washington D.C. and Illinois offices will continue serve the people of the 16th District, and keep the Congressman updated while he serves his mission along our southern border,” Gillespie said.

The Wisconsin National Guard confirmed that Kinzinger has been deployed on active duty status to the National Guard border mission, but not the separate active duty mission along the border.

"He’s involved with the National Guard’s mission to support the Arizona National Guard’s mission that is supporting Customs and Border Protection," said Capt. Joe Trovato, a Guard spokesman.

About 2,200 National Guard troops have been serving on the southern border since last April. It is a separate mission of active duty troops that was launched in mid-October in response to the arrival on the border of multiple caravans of migrants from Central America.

Kinzinger told the Sun Times he has deployed to the Southwest border three times before during the Obama administration flying immigration and drug-smuggling aerial surveillance missions.

“I think we need a wall or barriers," Kinzinger told the newspaper. "I don’t care what it’s called. I don’t care really what it looks like as long as it’s the purpose of it."

He described once flying a mission over the Rio Grande River in Texas watching two groups of people trying to cross the border illegally.

“One group would cross -- the Border Patrol would react," he said. " They would go back into the water and the other group would cross and they’d sit here and do this until one can make it in without the Border Patrol reacting.”

“A border wall or barrier shrinks that area of the border you have to monitor because if it’s walled, yeah, people can get over a wall, they can get under a wall," he said. "I get that. But they can’t do it at the rate of if there was no wall.”

In March 2016, Kinzinger was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal "for various mission accomplishments including 420 million dollars of drug-related seizures, more than 700 arrests of high-value drug traffickers, and two deployments in support of overseas contingency operations where he executed over 275 combat flight hours and 100 combat sorties," according to a write up by the Wisconsin National Guard public affairs office.

In that article then-Major Kinzinger noted balance he maintains in keeping his Air National Guard responsibilities with his he was first elected to Congress.

"It's a neat kind of dichotomy to play," He said, Maj. Adam Kinzinger, RC-26 pilot and U.S. congressman. "The second I put my uniform on, I'm a major and I'm saluting lieutenant colonels and calling them sir. The next day, I'm talking to generals in my office and they're asking me for my support on various programs."

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