Why VIP trips to combat zones are just a pain in the a**

Phil Briggs
January 18, 2019 - 10:38 am

Rrodrickbeiler | Dreamstime.com

Recent reports about the canceled CODEL (Congressional Delegation) trip to Afghanistan for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and 7 other lawmakers have largely focused on the political sparring match between the speaker and the president.

But most of these reports (and frankly most non -veteran reporters) are missing an important point.

So to help my fellow journalists who have never experienced the joy of being stationed in a place where senior administration officials visit, allow me to explain why official visits are mostly just a total pain in the ass. 


In December of 1995, I was frozen, wet and tired for 7 hours while covering the commissioning ceremony of carrier USS John C Stennis (CVN 74). While I understood how important this event was, and was actually proud to be part of her initial crew, one moment that truly characterizes these visits still resonates with me. 

I greeted an elderly South Carolina Senator as he passed through the receiving line on the ship’s quarterdeck, “Hello Senator, sorry it’s not warmer today!”

He shuffled past without even acknowledging it, and a quick-thinking Navy Lieutenant behind him looked at me and replied, “The Senator says hello.”

I guess my response was audible because as I said, “What the hell?” I could feel my PAO clench the back of my uniform and under his breath strongly explain why I needed to keep quiet and smile.

I can only imagine what these visits are like in an actual war zone.  The hours of extra work for the men and women on the FOB to ensure their safety, rather than working to maintain the mission. The lost opportunity to rest and recharge before going back out on patrol or making another flight. The heightened anxiety of those standing watch as they consider the greater risk of an enemy attack once the dignitaries arrive. 

And for what?  Are lawmakers and members of the administration going to make significant policy changes after having some chow and a Rip It with warfighters on the front lines?

Can’t they just read the SITREPS, SOFREPS, and dozens of other reports that are sent up the chain of command?  Can’t they access any number of war rooms in the Pentagon and literally talk to a general on the ground?

Considering the hundreds of thousands of government workers not being paid right now, the last thing we need is for lawmakers to be parading around, and taking pictures with troops in a war zone.

What we need is everyone doing their job … and right now Speaker Pelosi and every other lawmaker's job is in DC, not Afghanistan.