What did Pete Buttigieg do in the US Navy? A look at transportation secretary nominee's time in the military
Pete Buttigieg has been in the spotlight, even after dropping out of the 2020 presidential race. He's clearly stating his opinions and not mincing his words, especially when it comes to any issue related to President Donald Trump. When Joe Biden was declared President-elect, most experts were of the opinion that Mayor Pete, as he is popularly called, will be given a cabinet position.
On Tuesday, December 15, Biden in a statement, as reported by CNN announced that the former South Bend, Indiana, the mayor is his nomination for the position of transportation secretary. If his nomination makes it, Buttigieg would be the first Senate-confirmed LGBTQ Cabinet secretary. Biden said, “Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a patriot and a problem-solver who speaks to the best of who we are as a nation. I am nominating him for Secretary of Transportation because this position stands at the nexus of so many of the interlocking challenges and opportunities ahead of us."
Biden added that he sees the Department of Transportation as the “site of some of our most ambitious plans to build back better” and that he trusts "Mayor Pete to lead this work with focus, decency, and a bold vision."
Buttigieg tweeted, “This is a moment of tremendous opportunity—to create jobs, meet the climate challenge, and enhance equity for all. I'm honored that the President-elect has asked me to serve our nation as Secretary of Transportation.” He also said, “Innovation in transportation helped build my hometown, and it propels our country. Now is the time to build back better through modern and sustainable infrastructure that creates millions of good-paying union jobs, revitalizes communities, and empowers all Americans to thrive.”
This is a moment of tremendous opportunity—to create jobs, meet the climate challenge, and enhance equity for all.— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) December 16, 2020
I'm honored that the President-elect has asked me to serve our nation as Secretary of Transportation.
Innovation in transportation helped build my hometown, and it propels our country.— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) December 16, 2020
Now is the time to build back better through modern and sustainable infrastructure that creates millions of good-paying union jobs, revitalizes communities, and empowers all Americans to thrive.
Buttigieg, an Afghanistan War veteran, has often spoken about his time in the military during his presidential campaign. He served as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve, attaining the rank of lieutenant. He was mobilized and deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in 2014.
A look at his time in the service
Buttigieg joined the Navy Reserve in 2009, when he was 27. He joined as an intelligence officer through the Reserve's direct commission program open to applicants with academic degrees. It made him an officer without first having to go through the months of officer training, as most did. However, the Harvard graduate did go through basic training. He told ABC News that he got the full experience: being woken up in the middle of the night on the first night to superiors inspecting the rooms for the slightest breaches. Buttigieg shared that he and his roommate became skilled at polishing shoes and would polish others' shoes in return for their expertise at, say, precisely making their beds. "You know all that stuff you hear about in a military environment to kind of whip us into shape. But, yeah, we figured it out," Buttigieg said.
In 2010, Buttigieg ran for mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and won in 2011 at age 29. That did not make any difference to the military that their reservist was a mayor. Later, in 2014 Buttigieg got a call that he had been expecting since he joined: He was told to pack for Afghanistan. He told ABC News he requested an Afghanistan deployment because he wanted to be "where the heart of the action was" in the "area of greatest challenge." Buttigieg had been to the country to do economic development work for McKinsey and wrote in his book that he found the country "troubled but also hauntingly beautiful."
However, when the call actually came, he felt a mix of fear and excitement "because, you know, this is what you train for when you're in the Reserve. The whole point of all the work you do is to be ready to mobilize. And now I was going to mobilize."
Instead of being deployed with the troops with whom he trained, he was sent to Afghanistan to join what was called the Afghanistan Threat Finance Cell, a multi-agency task force led by the Drug Enforcement Administration along with the military that also included representatives from departments including the FBI and Treasury. By 2014 the cell's goal was to uncover the methods and networks by which the insurgency was obtaining funding and given that information to US or Afghan forces in hopes of disrupting it -- sometimes through force.
He began his deployment in Bagram but soon was transferred to Kabul to be the task force liaison officer to the regional command there. In the mornings, Buttigieg said he would process the latest intelligence and prepare updates for his superiors or participate in conference calls with people from other US government agencies. Apart from his duties as an analyst, Buttigieg said his afternoons often included driving senior officers around Kabul. There were also trips where Buttigieg offered to boost the security for other convoys from the base. "So a typical scenario, there might be that the boss needed to get across town to an Afghan police unit that we were interacting with," Buttigieg told ABC News. "Or, for more of an adventure, once in a while we'd have a vehicle movement all the way up to Bagram" about 40 miles away.
He left Afghanistan in September 2014 and returned to his job of mayor in South Bend, along with Reserve duties in Illinois. In November 2017, Buttigieg left the Reserve but has said during his campaign trail that his experience in uniform helped shape his views for the country.