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As Americans around the world celebrated Independence Day this past weekend, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a combat veteran and a former commander in the Iowa Army National Guard, visited members of the Iowa National Guard deployed to Kosovo and other Iowa troops serving in Germany and Belgium, as part of an official multi-day visit to meet with U.S. military leaders—including European Command and Africa Command—NATO allies, and Kosovo government officials.

“As a former commander in the Iowa Army National Guard, I believe it’s important to recognize the selfless sacrifice of the men and women serving around the globe and at home. I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate Independence Day than alongside the Iowans protecting our nation in Kosovo—a close partner and Iowa’s sister state—and elsewhere,” said Ernst, the first female combat veteran elected to the U.S. Senate.

“The U.S. continues to face threats around the globe, and there’s no doubt two of our leading adversaries are China and Russia. During this visit, I met with two U.S. operational commands to better understand our strategic operations in the European and African regions to combat malign activities from these near-peer adversaries,” said Ernst, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities.

The trip began on Thursday, July 1. Ernst was briefed by U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany. The group discussed countering violent extremist groups on the rise in East Africa, including Al Shabaab, AQIM and Boko Haram. They also discussed the increased influence of Russia and China in the region.

Ernst was briefed by U.S. European Command on July 2. She also visited Brussels, Belgium where she stopped at NATO Headquarters and the NATO Special Operations School.

On July 3, she went to Pristina, Kosovo and was hosted by Madam President Vjosa Osmani, Prime Minister Albin Kurti and additional top government officials.

Finally, on July 4, she went to Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo and met with members of the Iowa National Guard to celebrate Independence Day.