Scott Brown, the former Republican senator from Massachusetts who is running to unseat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in New Hampshire, is again talking up his long service in the National Guard, suggesting it taught him how to run a "frontal attack."
Brown first enlisted in the National Guard in 1979, according to his memoir, Against All Odds. He left an infantry unit in the 1990s to become a military lawyer, he wrote, explaining that with a wife and kids, "It was becoming less enticing to spend weekends in the woods."
He never served in combat, according to a detailed review by the Boston Globe. The closest he came was a week of training in Afghanistan in 2011, while he was in office. He also did lots of legal work for service members, and during his Senate career he served in the Pentagon as a colonel in the Maryland National Guard.
Still, he gave the impression Wednesday in a campaign question-and-answer session in Hudson, New Hampshire, that he was a bit more combat-seasoned than that. Criticizing President Barack Obama's efforts cutting costs and reshaping the military as "incoherent," Brown suggested he would do better because of his experience.
"That's why we need someone in there with military experience to do that, who understands what an 11 Bravo [infantryman] is, and what's the composition of a rifle company, and how do you lead a frontal attack. Those are the things that we need to be aware of," Brown said.
Presumably Brown's "weekends in the woods" included training on assault techniques, even if he never participated in a frontal attack himself. Brown also was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
In response to questions about Brown’s comments, his campaign sent along a copy of the afterword that he added to his memoir after returning from the Afghan training trip. It begins with this excerpt, which doesn't mention any frontal attacks by Brown:
Seven p.m., and not quite dusk at Bagram Airfield, a collection of runways, prefab buildings, and barbed wire checkpoints northwest of Kabul on a dry, dusty flatland with the Hindu Kush mountains rising up in the background. I was watching some guys play street hockey and getting something to eat. The whole setup is kind of like a boardwalk, except that this valley is about as far as you can possibly get from the salty smells of the ocean. I was eating, trying to memorize a bit of the feel of Afghanistan before I hopped on a transport plane for the flight south to Kuwait, when I heard the first boom. It was off in the distance, just a slight explosion, a bit of a shake to the ground. There was a pause, then a second blast, this one closer, rattling the walls and the tables. A spilt second passed, and then we all heard the wail of the siren. Soldiers dropped their hockey sticks and left their food on their plates. They started hitting the ground, the dust swirling up as they dove for cover. I dropped too, and then another blast came, this one maybe 700 or 800 meters away, close enough to glimpse the bright flash of light. A bunch of us took off at a dead run toward a nearby bunker as another mortar raked and rocked the ground. We spent an hour in a secured building while teams cleared the airport of enemy ordnance still on the tarmac.
Three hours later, my flight was in the sky, but the street hockey players, the guys in the chow line, the guys who drive the trucks, fly the planes, the maintenance workers, the flight ground crews were all still there. This is their reality, if not every day then often enough.
This article was updated after publication with an excerpt from Brown's memoir.