Joni Ernst, U.S. Senator and retired Lt. Colonel, Army National Guard

by Jess Clackum

Senator Joni Ernst

Senator Joni Ernst

Sen. Joni Ernst is a native of Iowa with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Iowa State and Master of Public Administration from Columbus College.

Sen. Ernst’s 25-year military career with the Army Reserve and Army National Guard began when she entered the ROTC during her study at Iowa State. She was commissioned to 2LT in the US Army Reserve in 1992, promoted to 1LT in 1995 and then to Captain in 1999. She joined the National Guard in 2001, promoted to major in 2005 and finally Lt Colonel in 2011.

Ernst served as commander of the Iowa National Guard’s 1168th Transportation Company and deployed to Kuwait in February 2003. She drove supply convoys into Iraq, conducting 402 missions hauling 2.091 loads, 10.5 million tons of equipment including food, clothing, weapons, ammunition and billions in paper currency. She spent fourteen months as a company commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lt. Col. Joni Ernst

Lt. Col. Joni Ernst

Ernst’s political career began as auditor for Montgomery County, Iowa for six years, followed by a three-year stint in the Iowa State Senate where she was a member of the Education, Appropriations, Veterans Affairs, Rules Administration and Health and Human Services committees. In 2014, she was elected to the United States Senate replacing retired Senator Tom Harkin, and becoming the first women from Iowa elected to the U.S. Congress. In the U.S. Senate she serves on the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Committee on Armed Services, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Joni Ernst (middle) during training at For McCoy, Wisconsin

Joni Ernst (middle) during training at For McCoy, Wisconsin

Last year, Sen. Ernst proposed legislation that would allow military veterans to get mental health care outside the Veterans Affairs system until they receive help from the agency.

“There is no acceptable VA wait time for mental health care treatment for our veterans,” she said. “The limits to how much suffering a veteran can endure simply cannot be accurately measured by the VA or any medical professional.”

In January 2016, Senator Ernst joined forces with fellow Senator Barbara Mikulski in introducing legislation to restore inurnment rights for the Women Airforce Service Pilots at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Yesterday, I joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to advocate for some incredible women, who really do deserve to be honored: they are the Women Airforce Service Pilots, otherwise known as WASPs.

“And Secretary—you know where I’m going with this—it is a travesty that these women, who are pioneers in military aviation, had the honor of having their ashes inurned at Arlington National Cemetery revoked last year, during the same year that historically you opened up positions that had been previously closed in combat to women.

“So I would like to see that addressed, and the Pentagon should do the right thing and honor these women by restoring their rights to have their ashes inurned at the National Cemetery. And it’s my understanding that a waiver could be done for these women to do so. So I would encourage you to do so and I’d like to see that action taken. They are a part of America’s greatest generation as well.”

FlyGirls appreciates Senator Ernst's military and public service and her support for the WASP!