As a retired Army colonel, I read with considerable interest the letter submitted by Army Warrant Officer Bryant Fontenot, in which he criticizes Greg Ellison for using a photo of himself in military uniform in support of his political campaign. Please allow me to respond.
The first point I need to make is a simple one — that being to correct one of Mr. Fontenot’s initial observations. Greg Ellison is running for the honor of serving Louisiana as the representative to the U.S. House of Representatives, not the Louisiana House.
Secondly, I would point out that he is running his campaign not as a career politician, but rather as a concerned parent and grandparent, as a small business owner in the oil & gas industry of South Louisiana, and — very importantly — as a career military officer. It is his military experience that distinguishes him not only as an officer and a gentleman, but also entitles him to be included among a disproportionately small number of U.S. Representatives with military service.
Mr. Fontenot asserts that “Ellison should be ashamed of himself” for billboards portraying him in uniform. I, for one, am of the opposing view—– that none of those of us who have ever been privileged to wear the Army uniform should ever, under any circumstances, be “ashamed” of being seen in that uniform. Mr. Ellison’s purpose was never intended to be the “self-serving act” as Fontenot alleges; rather, it simply and clearly highlights one of the primary pillars of the Ellison campaign.
I have known Greg Ellison since we were cadets together at West Point. As field artillery officers, we served together often. Most noteworthy, we served together with the First Cavalry Division Artillery during the first Gulf War. He was the operations officer; I was his assistant.
After our six months together in a wartime environment, I probably know Greg as well as anyone outside of his immediate family. I can vouch for his character in general and I can also respond to several of the specific points raised in the Fontenot letter.
(1) Mr. Ellison’s bio correctly states that he did in fact serve at every level of command from platoon to corps. While never asserting that he commanded at each of those levels, he actually did command at the battery level and was selected for battalion command. His selection for the Army’s prestigious School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) destined him for a variety of key senior staff positions.
(2) His thesis written while at the SAMS course is not a standing course requirement; however, it clearly demonstrates his keen military intellect, as well as his research into the Iraq-Iran relationship.
(3) Mr. Fontenot insinuates that Ellison’s time during Desert Shield/Storm in the first Gulf War was spent in the rear echelons. Nothing could be further from the truth. The First Cavalry Division was forward deployed along the Iraq border in the first days of Desert Storm, and crossed into Iraq with the main forces. Contrary to Fontenot’s allegations, at no time during our six-month deployment were we “replete with comforts unavailable to the warfighters …”
(4) Fontenot’s understanding of the role of staff officers during artillery raids is clearly flawed. Commanders were responsible for the positioning and firing of our artillery pieces; however, staff officers coordinated the targeting, timing, and the ultimate execution of each raid. For the record, Greg Ellison and I were physically located with the Multiple-Launch Rocket System (MLRS) battalion that was featured on the cover of a February 1991 Time Magazine.
(5) Greg Ellison’s Bronze Star was awarded exclusively for his superior performance in a combat environment. The Legion of Merit was awarded to him upon his retirement, in recognition of his superior performance throughout his career, of which Desert Shield/Storm was a part.
As for Greg Ellison’s character, I would simply describe it as the epitome of the United States Military Academy’s motto of “Duty, Honor, Country.” He is a gifted scholar and orator, whose love for his family and respect for his country is second to none.
To Mr. Fontenot, I would extend a vote of thanks for his service to our country.
To voters in the 3rd Congressional District of Louisiana, I can only unequivocally endorse my friend Greg Ellison in the strongest of terms. He is an extraordinary gentleman, worthy of your support.