The fact that Republican Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger is big on border security is no surprise. The fact that part of his reasoning behind it is drug interdiction shouldn’t be, either.
“When drugs come into Arizona, they end up in Illinois,” Kinzinger told Fox News in a report published Saturday. “To protect this country from, frankly, all the drugs that are coming over, is awesome.”
When he’s talking about protecting America from drugs, however, what might be surprising is that he’s not just sitting in the nation’s capital voting for a border wall or spending more money on Customs and Border Protection — not that he’d be averse to any of those things, mind you.
Rather, it’s the fact that Rep. Kinzinger is actively stopping those drugs from coming in — as part of a National Guard unit deployed to the southern border.
Kinzinger is a lieutenant colonel with the Wisconsin Air National Guard, according to Fox News. Since earlier this month, he’s been deployed with his unit in Tucson, Arizona.
“I love to be able to do it,” Kinzinger told Fox.
— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) February 13, 2019
“As with his previous border missions while elected, the Congressman will stay within the United States,” a statement from Kinzinger’s communications director read.
“The Congressman is humbled to serve his IL-16 community here in the People’s House and equally proud to serve as a reconnaissance pilot in the Air Guard. In both of these roles, Congressman Kinzinger fights to make our national security stronger, our border more secure, and our communities safer.”
Kinzinger is a pilot for the RC-26 surveillance aircraft, which can fly five-hour missions without being detected.
Not only does it help him put his money where his mouth is — both when it comes to national service and border security — it’s also a way to keep himself (pardon the pun) grounded.
“I have some colleagues,” Kinzinger told Fox News about Capitol Hill, “they have let their position get to their head a little bit.”
“When I deploy with these guys, it’s just my old buddies,” he added. “They say basically, ‘Hey, you are a lieutenant colonel here. Nobody special.’”
Well, lieutenant colonel might be”nobody special” to Kinzingers’ comrades in the guard, but it’s still pretty cool.
As for his mission, while the RC-26 may look like a normal commuter airplane (and is based on one — the Fairchild Swearingen SA-227 Metroliner), Fox News notes that “it’s specially equipped to gather information and high-resolution video of any illegal activity they may spot, on the ground.”
That’s important in the mountainous part of Arizona over which Kinzinger pilots, where technology plays an important part in interdiction.
“We have over 200 miles of border out here that’s just almost unmanned. No fencing on it at all,” Lt. Col Kenneth Bruce with the Arizona Air National Guard told Fox. “We have a lot of traffic through there.”
And the illegal traffickers at the border know what they’re doing, Ron Bellavia, the acting deputy chief patrol agent for the Tucson sector, told Fox News.
“They are very difficult to find,” he said. “They are crossing the border in camouflage. They are putting carpet on their shoes, so we cannot track them through the desert.”
It’s an interesting perspective Kinzinger’s time in uniform is giving him, on both border security and national service. Kinzinger told Fox “Congress would be in a better spot” if every member had the same experence to draw from.
Anyway, kudos to again to Kinzinger for doing double duty this way.
It’s a shame we don’t have more men and women in the halls of the Capitol willing to do the same.