By Len Lazarick
Sen. J.B. Jennings reports Sunday for Air Force training in Georgia and will miss of the rest of the session, except for any time he has off from the 13-week training at Robins Air Force Base.
Jennings, 36, a member of the Maryland Air National Guard, is a master load specialist and is being trained on the new C27 Spartan cargo plane.
The training to be part of the three-person crew on the new smaller cargo aircraft will likely result in his deployment to Afghanistan, Jennings said.
The Baltimore County Republican was just elected to the Senate after eight years in the House of Delegates.
“The constituents knew when I campaigned that I was in the military and this was possible,” Jennings told MarylandReporter.com. “I’ll be coming back because there will be breaks in training.”
The return visits from the Georgia base also depend on “what I can afford – I have to pay for the plane tickets myself,” he said.
“I’ve never missed a vote in eight years in the House,” Jennings said. “I take this job seriously.”
Jennings, a farmer who co-owns a feed store, joined the Guard in 2008, At 34, he said he was the oldest member of his basic training unit, even older than the drill instructor. As a college graduate (University of Baltimore), Jennings was eligible to be an officer, but “I wanted to do this job and it is an enlisted position.”
UPDATED: Senate Republican Leader Nancy Jacobs, R-Harford-Cecil, said, "We will certainly miss his input on the Senate floor."
"As far as constituent work, he has an excellent staff who will take care of the needs of the constituents of his district," Jacobs said. "He will be in constant touch with his office.
"As a caucus, we're proud and thankful Sen. Jennings chose to help defend our country," Jacobs said. "It may be inconvenient timing, but just like thousands of others he has answered the call to protect our nation in our fight in the global war on terror."
Jacobs noted that she and Jennings both share Aberdeen Proving Grounds, one of the largest military bases in Maryland, and have many military families as part of their districts,
Units of the Maryland Air National Guard have already been deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Jennings is not the first person to be called up during a legislative session recently.
CORRECTED: In 2004, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown spent 10 months in Iraq when he was the majority leader whip of the House of Delegates. As a lieutenant colonel, Brown worked with military and civilian officials to deliver humanitarian assistance.
Brown is currently the highest-ranking elected official in the nation who has served a tour of duty in Iraq.