Op-Ed: Why Military Service Prepares Veterans for Public Service

Bronze Star recipient Dr. Chase Kohne is a veteran and Army Reserve major with a Civil Affairs Battalion based at Fort Carson. He is running for Congress in the Fourth Congressional District in Colorado. Photo courtesy of Dr. Chase Kohne
Bronze Star recipient Dr. Chase Kohne is a veteran and Army Reserve major with a Civil Affairs Battalion based at Fort Carson. He is running for Congress in the Fourth Congressional District in Colorado. Photo courtesy of Dr. Chase Kohne

Bronze Star recipient Dr. Chase Kohne is a veteran and Army Reserve major with a Civil Affairs Battalion based at Fort Carson. He owns a veterinary practice in Castle Rock and cares for horses, cows and other animals on farms throughout the Fourth Congressional District in Colorado, where he is running for Congress. The viewpoints expressed by Dr. Kohne do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and official policies of Military.com.

Approval ratings for Congress are among the lowest ever recorded, but being a politician doesn't have to be dishonorable. As a U.S. Army veteran, my lifelong drive to serve people inspired me to run for Congress in this year's midterm election.

Fewer veterans are serving in Congress now than at any point since 1967, when nearly three-quarters of the House and Senate were members of our military, compared to less than 19 percent today.

A shortage of veterans in government means we're missing key opportunities: Our armed forces are the most well-trained, educated and effective in history. Veterans stand out as some of our best problem-solvers, and research shows that electing more veterans to Congress will give the House and Senate the credibility they need to better oversee and restrain the president's use of force.

Campaigning and governing take very different talents, and military training helps veterans excel at both. Successful candidates must strategize a winning plan, maximize time and resources, operate on a strict budget, communicate clearly, manage a hardworking staff, and develop trusting relationships with people from all walks of life.

Military training helps candidates think on their feet and cope with any hostile situation they may face. When I deployed to Afghanistan, my civil affairs missions often involved convincing Afghans to work with U.S. forces -- a challenge not unlike the task of convincing undecided voters in a tough district to support my platform.

Once elected, public officials must identify and address their constituents' needs. They must work with all kinds of people to solve problems. That's second nature for veterans, since our military is already one of the most diverse organizations in the world.

It doesn't matter what you look like, where you come from, what you believe, who you love, or how much money you make -- you're judged solely on your character and your ability to perform your mission. We strive to overcome prejudice because we know our lives depend on teamwork and cooperation.

Congress has the power to declare war -- or to prevent one -- and research shows that increasing the number of veterans in Congress will give the House and Senate the authority and the knowledge they need to oversee and limit the president's military operations.

A 2017 study in "Political Research Quarterly" examined U.S. House members' votes on military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2012 and found that members with military experience were more likely to vote to limit the number of troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan or to bring troops back home from those wars.

Crucially, veterans were also more likely to seek further congressional access to information about these conflicts before making their decisions.

In other words, regardless of their party leanings, having a military service record gives members of Congress the credibility and the desire to closely watch over and restrict our military operations.

The knowledge and experience veterans gain during their service makes all the difference. Veterans understand how our military works, and we know how operations are likely to play out in practice.

Veterans know exactly what it means to send young Americans into combat and, because defense accounts for a significant percentage of the federal budget, it's vital that the people who oversee our military spending understand exactly where waste and inefficiency lurk.

In the military, putting our differences aside to solve problems isn't just common sense, it's a matter of life and death.

I'm proud to be one of several veterans running for Congress in 2018. Our service makes an excellent proving ground for the challenges of campaigning and governing, and holding public office is a natural extension of our drive to serve the nation we love.

-- The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to opinions@military.com for consideration.

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