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GUEST COLUMN: Let’s stay grounded in the truth

Service members didn’t break the rules by staying at Trump hotel

Editor’s note: This column first appeared in the Opinion section of

A good headline will draw you in, eager to read, and curious to learn more. But all too often, it’s the scandalous headlines that stir the news cycle, stretch the truth, and tell a fraction of the story. These are the headlines that spread like wildfire on Twitter, outraging thousands, and leaving the real story lost on the cutting-room floor. We see it happen all the time.

Last week, a full-blown scandal erupted because of a headline like this, “Trump had deal with Scotland airport that sent flight crews to his resort.”

The true story gets lost because some firmly believe the president ordered the rooms at his resort be filled with Air Force aircrew members. But the truth is more important than the headline.

As a pilot in the Air Guard and veteran of the United States Air Force, I am quite familiar with Department of Defense travel guidelines, so let me set the record straight.

When aircrews need to stay overnight somewhere, the location is generally based on mission requirements and government fuel contract availability. In many cases, that location comes down from Scott Air Force Base in a planning cell called the Tactical Air Control Center (TACC).

If a crew is given the option of picking an overnight location, there are strict guidelines as to where that location can be, like taking into account fuel availability and crew rest times among a host of other variables. This also sheds light on why an entire cell of the military is dedicated to planning such logistics.

Another fun fact is that European cities have “quiet hours,” which limits the time frames for when a jet like a C-17 or KC-135 can depart or arrive, thus even further limiting options available to our aircrew members.

Aircrew members are given a per diem for expenses, and quite honestly, they have the right to pick any location and food choices that will honor their allocated amount. Per diem sums cover the cost of the hotel room and a spending allowance on-site.

Many questions go into making the decision on where to stay during a mission and many times these decisions are made by the aircrew or planning cell based on availability, and it is absolutely their right to do so.

It’s not a scandal for aircrews to stay at a nice hotel like the Trump Turnberry. And it’s not unethical as long as they honor the government rate, which is not always a given because as a private company, they can choose to honor it or not.

For everyone still spinning up over this story, I have a spoiler alert: not everyone in an aircrew will be happy with every accommodation, whether it’s a Trump hotel or a cheap motel down the road.

I preferred the nicer places during my time in the Air Force, but some I flew with preferred to pocket the extra money.

It’s a choice, and it’s that of our service members to make – not the firing squads on Twitter. And this choice is in the regulation written by our Department of Defense.

Our servicemen and women work harder than most of us could imagine, and so why shouldn’t we give them the choice to determine their overnight stays within the DOD guidelines?

To those who continue to use the military as pawns, particularly while exhibiting zero interest in finding out the truth and the actual rules, please do us all a favor and just stop.

To the Air Force leadership bending to the pressure from the media by opening “studies” into the issue, I implore you to knock it off. If no law was broken – and it does not appear there was – the Air Force needs to defend their service members. End of story.

Their statement should simply refer people to the applicable regulations and then they should go back to focusing on how to increase pilot retention and morale, among other deeply concerning challenges facing the United States Air Force right now.

We cannot continue to let the headlines dictate the true story or scare us into cowering to the uproar.

Take the time to learn the facts and decide for yourself.

For me, I know where I stand. If I were flying overseas today and the Trump Turnberry was an option for my overnight, you can bet all your savings I’d be staying there with my crew. Because that would be my choice to make, not the Twitter trends.

Adam Kinzinger is the representative for the 16th Congressional District of Illinois and is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In addition, he served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee during the 113th Congress. Kinzinger served in the Air Force in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He has served in the Air Force Special Operations, Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, and Air National Guard. He has the current rank of major.

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