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"I have more military experience than anybody who’s arrived behind that desk since George H.W. Bush."
As many readers already know, this comes down to a comparison between Buttigieg and the elder Bush’s son, George W. Bush.
As Buttigieg indicated, the late George H.W. Bush had an extensive military background. He was a lieutenant (junior grade) bomber pilot in the U.S. Navy during World War II, serving from 1942 to 1945. He flew a total of 58 combat missions, was shot down in the Pacific and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
That leaves the elder Bush’s son, George W. Bush, also a Republican, who was president from 2001 to 2009.
So, is Buttigieg’s military experience more extensive than George W. Bush’s?
Yes. The gay and married Rhodes scholar served longer in the reserves and saw active duty.
Buttigieg’s official mayoral biography says he served eight years, from 2009 to 2017, in the U.S. Navy Reserve. A spokeswoman for his exploratory committee cited to us a first-person reflection that Buttigieg wrote for his hometown newspaper, the South Bend Tribune, about his wartime service.
The article was about his taking a leave of absence as mayor, in 2014 during his first term, when he was called up to active duty to serve for six months as a counterterrorism intelligence officer in Afghanistan. The article included a photograph of Buttigieg in Kabul, wearing fatigues and a rifle strapped over his back.
The war in Afghanistan is now in its 18th year, as the New York Times noted in a summary. In 2014, the Pentagon declared an end to American combat operations. Since then, a smaller number of troops have remained to train Afghan forces and carry out counterterrorism operations against groups like the Islamic State.
Buttigieg said: "I have more military experience than anybody who’s arrived behind that desk since George H.W. Bush."
Among the four men who have been president since the elder Bush, only George W. Bush served in the military: five years stateside with the Texas Air National Guard. Buttigieg served eight years in the U.S. Navy Reserve, including a six-month war-time deployment in Afghanistan, in 2014.
We rate Buttigieg’s statement True.
YouTube, CBS This Morning interview of Pete Buttigieg, Jan. 31, 2019
Email, Peter Buttigieg spokeswoman Lis Smith, Feb. 8, 2019
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "List of presidents who were veterans," Feb. 16, 2015
Smithsonian Institution, "Military Service of the Presidents"
Boston Globe, "Bush fell short on duty at Guard," Sept. 8, 2004
South Bend Tribune, "Buttigieg reflects on Afghanistan and return to South Bend," Oct. 5, 2014
City of South Bend, Mayor Pete Buttigieg biography, accessed Feb. 9, 2019
Washington Post, "The most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of," March 10, 2014
FactCheck.org, "Bush A Military ‘Deserter?’ Calm Down, Michael," Feb. 11, 2004
New York Times, "The First Gay President?" June 11, 2016
New York Times, "Pete Buttigieg Might Be President Someday. He’s Already Got the First Man," June 18, 2018
Military.com, "Vets in Public Service: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg," Oct. 16, 2018
Email, University of North Carolina historian Wayne Lee, chair of the Curriculum in Peace, War and Defense, Feb. 9, 2019
Email, Kansas State University U.S. military historian Mark Parillo, Feb. 9, 2019
New York Times, "Need a Refresher on the War in Afghanistan? Here Are the Basics," Jan. 28, 2018
Washington Post, "At Height of Vietnam, Bush Picks Guard," July 28, 1999
Email, University of North Texas historian Geoffrey Wawro, director of the school’s Military History Center, Feb. 11, 2019
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