Documents provide glimpse into Buttigieg’s military service

Military documents obtained by The Hill provide a glimpse into Pete Buttigieg’s time as a Navy intelligence officer in Afghanistan, a key portion of his biography that sets him apart from the pack of 2020 Democratic presidential contenders.

The Hill reviewed Buttigieg’s certificate of release from active duty and a counseling report. The documents are highly redacted but reveal new details about Buttigieg’s work to disrupt the flow of money among terrorist organizations as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the war on terrorism launched by former President George W. Bush after 9/11.

{mosads}The documents were first obtained by ABC 57’s Clifton French, an investigative reporter and Iraq War veteran based in South Bend, Ind., where Buttigieg is mayor.

According to the documents, Buttigieg served in the Afghanistan Threat Finance Cell (ATFC) in Kabul, placing him in “an imminent danger pay area” from late March to mid-September 2014, while the then-32-year old was still serving his first term as mayor.

The ATFC “identifies and disrupts Taliban, Al-Qaida and other insurgent financial support networks in Afghanistan.”

Buttigieg represented ATFC at “high level briefings,” the documents say, and “coordinated intelligence sharing and targeting deconfliction” methods with multiple organizations.

In his book “Shortest Way Home,” Buttigieg wrote about how he expected to spend the bulk of his time as an intelligence analyst “behind a sophisticated computer terminal in a secure area.”

But out on the campaign trail, Buttigieg has talked about the 119 times he says he crossed “outside the wire,” leaving the relative safety of the base as a vehicle commander on convoy security detail in dangerous parts of Kabul.

“We learned what it is to trust one another with our lives,” Buttigieg said in his presidential launch speech.

The documents do not say anything about Buttigieg’s time outside the wire, but military officials who reviewed the documents for The Hill note that he likely did not engage in direct combat, which would have earned him a Navy combat ribbon.

Buttigieg has not claimed to have been involved in direct combat, but he has written at length about the dangers he faced in the unpredictable environs in downtown Kabul, where stops at checkpoints or encounters on the street could turn deadly.

“In a ritual to be repeated dozens of times, I would heave my armored torso into the driver’s seat of a Land Cruiser, chamber a round in my M4, lock the doors and wave a gloved goodbye to the Macedonian gate guard,” Buttigieg wrote. “My vehicle would cross outside the wire and into the boisterous Afghan city, entering a world infinitely more interesting and ordinary and dangerous than our zone behind the blast walls at ISAF headquarters.”

Buttigieg also wrote about the threat of roadside explosive devices and how he was constantly on the lookout for signs of danger.

“I fell back on my training from Camp McCrady, eyes out for the known signs that we were about to get blown up,” he wrote. “A suddenly empty neighborhood. A nervous-looking lone driver of a vehicle with a heavy trunk load. An obviously male hand coming out from underneath a woman’s blue burqa.”

Military officials say Buttigieg received standard medals and decorations for a member who served overseas in the war on terror, such as the Afghanistan Campaign Medal for service in a combat zone, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Overseas Service Ribbon, and citations for rifle and pistol marksmanship.

About halfway into Buttigieg’s stint in Kabul, former President Obama announced his long-anticipated drawdown of troops in Afghanistan.

In his book, Buttigieg wrote about the soldiers who were killed after the announced drawdown.

“I did not believe the Afghanistan War was a mistake,” Buttigieg wrote. “But as I weighed my place in a war most people at home seemed to think was already ending, I couldn’t stop wondering, how do you ask a person to be the last to die for anything?”

Buttigieg returned home to his job as mayor in September 2014. He came out as gay in 2015 as he faced reelection, saying that his time in Afghanistan made him realize it was time to own his identity.

That year, Buttigieg won a second term as mayor with more than 80 percent of the vote.

{mossecondads}Buttigieg’s military records show that he completed about nine months of active-duty service, with six of those months in Afghanistan.

Buttigieg’s reserve training took place at Naval Station Great Lakes in North Chicago, where he studied to become an intelligence officer. There, Buttigieg’s background as a McKinsey consultant and his Rhodes scholar pedigree earned him a direct commission into the Navy.

“We had group of young, accomplished civilians — assistant U.S. attorneys and FBI agents,” said Thomas Gary, a senior petty officer at the Great Lakes station at the time. “Pete fit right in.”

Before his deployment to Afghanistan, Buttigieg was sent to Camp McCrady outside Fort Jackson, S.C., where he trained to become a “dirt sailor,” which is military slang for “Navy personnel assigned to Army-style jobs in combat zones.”

Buttigieg’s campaign did not respond to a question about whether he was called up from the Navy reserves or volunteered for deployment.

By 2013, Buttigieg had reached the rank of lieutenant, making his deployment more likely. But he deployed alone rather than with his unit and suggests in his book that he proactively sought out deployment to Afghanistan during his first term as mayor.

“[I] made sure my chain of command knew that I would rather go sooner than later, and would rather go to Afghanistan than anywhere else,” Buttigieg wrote.

Military officials told The Hill it is not out of the ordinary for a Navy lieutenant to deploy alone, particularly as a specialist.

“Because I was a specialist in counterterrorism, Afghanistan represented the best place in the world to practice my craft,” Buttigieg wrote. “It was also a country, troubled but hauntingly beautiful that I had gotten to know while a civilian adviser at McKinsey. If my turn was coming up to get mobilized, I wanted it to be there.”

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