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With Thanksgiving approaching, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a former company commander in Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and the first female combat veteran to serve in the United States Senate, just returned from visiting U.S. troops, including a number of Iowans, deployed in Kuwait and Afghanistan.

“Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the countless blessings we have, including the freedoms we often take for granted. Iowa servicemembers are deployed around the world defending our nation, and I was humbled by the opportunity to say, ‘thank you’ and commend the men and women of our Armed Forces for their tremendous service and sacrifice,” said Senator Joni Ernst, a combat veteran and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “As a former company commander in Kuwait and Iraq, I understand the significance of our elected leaders being on-the-ground, supporting our troops, and receiving firsthand military briefings on our nation’s strategy in these critical regions.”

During the four-day Ernst-led visit, Senator Ernst and the delegation met with soldiers and commanders in Kuwait and Afghanistan, including those of the Des Moines-based 103rd Sustainment Command (103 ESC) of the U.S. Army Reserve, spoke with the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan at the Embassy, had dinner with the President of Afghanistan, received extensive military briefings on the region, and met with the U.S. Ambassador to NATO in Brussels, among other items.

The following lawmakers also participated in the congressional delegation trip: Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Representatives Mike Turner (R-OH-10), John Curtis (R-UT-03), and Jason Smith (R-MO-08).

Senator Ernst and the delegation arrived in Kuwait on the evening of Friday, November 22. The following morning, on Saturday, November 23, the Senator and the delegation traveled to Camp Arifjan where they met with soldiers and commanders of the 103 ESC who are based out of Des Moines, as well as troops from the 1st Theater Sustainment Command (1 TSC) based out of Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Later that day, Ernst and the delegation departed for Kabul, Afghanistan. That evening, the group attended a series of meetings at the U.S. Embassy, including a meeting with John Rodney Bass II, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. They also received military briefings on the situation in the region.

The next morning, on Sunday, November 24, the Senator and the delegation traveled to Camp Morehead in Afghanistan. That evening, the delegation attended a dinner with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the Presidential Palace. They also met with the Chief Executive of Afghanistan, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.

On Monday, November 25, the group visited Bagram Airfield. That evening, they began the trip back to the United States with a stop in Brussels, Belgium, where they met with Kay Bailey Hutchison, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO. They arrived back at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C. early on the morning of Tuesday, November 26.