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Capitol Hill to RC-26 cockpit

Maj. Adam Kinzinger, 115th Fighter Wing RC-26 Metroliner pilot, stands beside Col. Jon Kalberer, 176th Fighter Squadron commander, as The Meritorious Service Medal award package is read during a ceremony at Truax Field, Madison, Wis., March 5, 2016. Kinzinger received the award for various mission accomplishments including 420 million dollars of drug-related seizures, more than 700 arrests of high-value drug traffickers, and two deployments in support of overseas contingency operations where he executed over 275 combat flight hours and 100 combat sorties. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode)

Maj. Adam Kinzinger, 115th Fighter Wing RC-26 Metroliner pilot, stands beside Col. Jon Kalberer, 176th Fighter Squadron commander, as The Meritorious Service Medal award package is read during a ceremony at Truax Field, Madison, Wis., March 5, 2016. Kinzinger received the award for various mission accomplishments including 420 million dollars of drug-related seizures, more than 700 arrests of high-value drug traffickers, and two deployments in support of overseas contingency operations where he executed over 275 combat flight hours and 100 combat sorties. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode)

Col. Jon Kalberer, 176th Fighter Squadron commander, speaks about the accomplishments of Maj. Adam Kinzinger, 115th Fighter Wing RC-26 Metroliner pilot, prior to awarding him The Meritorious Service Medal during a ceremony at Truax Field, Madison, Wis., March 5, 2016. Kinzinger received the award for various mission accomplishments including 420 million dollars of drug-related seizures, more than 700 arrests of high-value drug traffickers, and two deployments in support of overseas contingency operations where he executed over 275 combat flight hours and 100 combat sorties. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode)

Col. Jon Kalberer, 176th Fighter Squadron commander, speaks about the accomplishments of Maj. Adam Kinzinger, 115th Fighter Wing RC-26 Metroliner pilot, prior to awarding him The Meritorious Service Medal during a ceremony at Truax Field, Madison, Wis., March 5, 2016. Kinzinger received the award for various mission accomplishments including 420 million dollars of drug-related seizures, more than 700 arrests of high-value drug traffickers, and two deployments in support of overseas contingency operations where he executed over 275 combat flight hours and 100 combat sorties. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode)

Maj. Adam Kinzinger, 115th Fighter Wing RC-26 Metroliner pilot, stands beside Col. Jon Kalberer, 176th Fighter Squadron commander, as The Meritorious Service Medal award package is read during a ceremony at Truax Field, Madison, Wis., March 5, 2016. Kinzinger received the award for various mission accomplishments including 420 million dollars of drug-related seizures, more than 700 arrests of high-value drug traffickers, and two deployments in support of overseas contingency operations where he executed over 275 combat flight hours and 100 combat sorties. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode)

Maj. Adam Kinzinger, 115th Fighter Wing RC-26 Metroliner pilot, stands beside Col. Jon Kalberer, 176th Fighter Squadron commander, as The Meritorious Service Medal award package is read during a ceremony at Truax Field, Madison, Wis., March 5, 2016. Kinzinger received the award for various mission accomplishments including 420 million dollars of drug-related seizures, more than 700 arrests of high-value drug traffickers, and two deployments in support of overseas contingency operations where he executed over 275 combat flight hours and 100 combat sorties. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode)

Maj. Adam Kinzinger, 115th Fighter Wing RC-26 Metroliner pilot, salutes Col. Jon Kalberer, 176th Fighter Squadron commander, after he receives The Meritorious Service Medal during a ceremony at Truax Field, Madison, Wis., March 5, 2016. Kinzinger received the award for various mission accomplishments including 420 million dollars of drug-related seizures, more than 700 arrests of high-value drug traffickers, and two deployments in support of overseas contingency operations where he executed over 275 combat flight hours and 100 combat sorties. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode)

Maj. Adam Kinzinger, 115th Fighter Wing RC-26 Metroliner pilot, salutes Col. Jon Kalberer, 176th Fighter Squadron commander, after he receives The Meritorious Service Medal during a ceremony at Truax Field, Madison, Wis., March 5, 2016. Kinzinger received the award for various mission accomplishments including 420 million dollars of drug-related seizures, more than 700 arrests of high-value drug traffickers, and two deployments in support of overseas contingency operations where he executed over 275 combat flight hours and 100 combat sorties. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode)

MADISON, Wis. -- He wakes up, slides into a dress suit and heads out for the day. From committees to meetings with constituents to Capitol Hill, he keeps himself informed and spends his time passing on the information he has gathered throughout the day, hoping to make a difference in the lives of others.

One weekend a month, he chooses to make a difference in the lives of others in a completely different way. He wakes up, puts on his flight suit and gears up to fly the RC-26 Metroliner. As a traditional guardsman, it is his duty to perform various missions across the United States of America. The RC-26 supports both state and federal missions to include southwest border operations, regional support for domestic operations and counter-drug missions.

"It's a neat kind of dichotomy to play," said  Maj. Adam Kinzinger, RC-26 pilot and U.S. congressman. "The second I put my uniform on, I'm a major and I'm saluting lieutenant colonels and calling them sir. The next day, I'm talking to generals in my office and they're asking me for my support on various programs."

Kinzinger did not always play both roles. He began his career as a guardsman and decided several years ago he wanted to do more.

"If I'm willing to defend my country from the outside, I have to be willing to defend it and serve it from the inside," he said. "I made the decision because I'm really passionate about doing the right thing. I saw it as a way to extend my service and do something that was meaningful."

When Kinzinger decided to switch from full-time guardsman to a drill-status guardsman to allow himself more time for the campaign trail, the pilots he was working with were surprised.

"At the time, we all thought he was crazy," said Col. Stephen Dunai,115th Fighter Wing maintenance group commander. "Looking back, it was really neat to see him pursue his dream. He's one of the relatively few congressmen who have combat experience. He's a great voice among that contingent for what the Air National Guard can offer. He has helped both introduce that mission and increase awareness of what it can do among fellow lawmakers."

Doing both jobs has been relatively time-consuming for Kinzinger.

"When I have time at home, which is rare, I'm usually thinking about how I can make up some of my military time," Kinzinger said. "I only spend an average of four or five nights at my home in Illinois per month, but I love it. It's something I really believe in. To be able to serve in both capacities gives me a level of career satisfaction that I really wish everyone could experience."

His military background has been an asset in his congressman role.

"The military teaches you how to work as a team," he said. "Running for congress and being in congress takes a lot of teamwork."

His military background also taught him to be confident in his decisions.

"I honestly don't worry about what a vote means for my career," Kinzinger said. "I've taken a lot of really tough votes because I know that there are young people out there who are willing to give their life for this country. I have to be willing to give my career for the same cause."
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