I was commissioned as an Ensign in the US Navy Reserve in 1989. I have now served 21 years. For the last 10 years, as a Member of Congress, I served without pay because I love the Navy, her duty, honor, country. In uniform, I served during conflicts with Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti and Bosnia. I am proud of my service – it is the honor of my life to work with Americans who keep America safe.
Last week, I found that I misidentified a military award and corrected my biography. According to the Washington Post, their reporter worked with Alexi Giannoulias' campaign to write a story that turned out to be imprecise about the title of an award included in that biography.
The error was discovered last week by my staff. Going through my Fitness Reports for 1999/2000, we recognized that referring to an award as “Intelligence Officer of the Year” was not precise – so we corrected my biography with the official name of a very distinguished award that I am honored to have received.
My corrected biography accurately shows I received the United States Navy Rufus L. Taylor Intelligence Award – as the leader of an ad-hoc intelligence effort supporting four EA-6B Prowler electronic attack squadrons as part of Operation Allied Force – instead of Intelligence Officer of the Year. I accepted the Taylor Intelligence Award (named after the head of navy intelligence in World War II) as the leader of an intelligence section that I assembled and led. There is no hierarchy between these awards as the Taylor Intelligence Award is equally distinguished.
I knew Alexi Giannoulias would focus on a negative campaign – in fact, he and his consultants announced that in the New York Times. I corrected the record, but I will not let my 21 years of service in uniform be denigrated by Alexi Giannoulias, a man who chose not to serve.
Frankly, I thought it took some nerve when he ran a television ad claiming credit for what amounted to tens of millions in investment losses from the college savings of thousands of working families under Illinois Bright Start – or to follow it up with a second ad looking for sympathy after so many of his decisions ran his bank into the ground, costing the FDIC $394 million. But coming after my 21-year Navy service record just might top those.
In November, Illinois voters have a choice – so let us look at my opponent’s record – here it is. Because of that record he has made a strategic decision to attack my military service record. I understand politics is a tough business – but this attack orchestrated by Alexi Giannoulias is a disgrace.
My official Navy records speak for themselves – read them here.
Our state and nation face serious problems - and having a veteran's military record challenged by a politician who never served and was anointed by the media as a "mob banker" is absurd.
I look forward to the contest and laying out the choice. If Alexi wants to make this race about my military record, I'm happy to have the debate. Thank you for your continued support.
Very truly yours,
Member of Congress
Fact Check: “Mob Banker” Who Never Served Attacks Decorated Naval Officer’s Distinguished Service Record
On Saturday, a Washington Post reporter noted that the Alexi Giannoulias campaign was involved in a story entitled “Illinois Senate candidate admits claim about military award was inaccurate.” The Giannoulias-provided story and some follow-up stories were inaccurate and merit correction.
Fact Checks on the Giannoulias-Provided Story:
#1: Giannoulias Provided Story Diminishes Kirk’s Outstanding Service
First, the Giannoulias-provided story diminishes Kirk’s Kosovo service by describing him only as “the intelligence officer for a single squadron at Aviano.” In fact, Kirk took charge of four squadrons and served as the lead officer for a combined intelligence team – the largest EA-6B intelligence shop in the history of naval aviation. (Source: Officer Fitness Reports; Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Citation)
#2: Giannoulias Provided Story Diminishes Kirk’s Distinguished Award
Second, the Giannoulias-provided story incorrectly suggests that the Rufus Taylor Intelligence Award is a non-Navy award. In fact, the “United States Navy Vice Admiral Rufus L. Taylor Intelligence Award” is nominated and selected by the Navy, and then presented by the National Military Intelligence Association. (Source: Navy Reserve Intelligence Command Award Manual)
#3: Giannoulias Provided Story Presents False Award Comparison
Third, the Giannoulias-provided story and other news outlets have incorrectly suggested that the Rufus Taylor Intelligence Award is less distinguished than a different award called the “Junior Officer of the Year Award.” In fact, both awards are nominated and selected by top Navy Reserve Intelligence Command officials. You cannot be accused of exaggerating something when there’s nothing to exaggerate. The two awards in question are equal in stature. (Source: Navy Reserve Intelligence Command Award Manual)
#4: Giannoulias Provided Story Suggests Kirk Did Not Earn Award
Fourth, the Giannoulias-provided story inaccurately suggests that Kirk did not personally earn the Rufus Taylor award since it was presented to a unit. In fact, the “unit” that received the award was an ad-hoc intelligence team that Mark Kirk established and ran to support Electronic Attack air combat operations during Kosovo. Kirk was presented with the award at the National Military Intelligence Association’s annual awards banquet. (Sources: Award Ceremony Photo; Officer Fitness Reports; Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Citation)
The Real Facts Are Clear
In 1999, Mark Kirk was the Intelligence Team Leader for Electronic Attack Wing Aviano during Operation Allied Force. In December of that year, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his service.
In 2000, Kirk and his team were recipients of the Rufus Taylor Intelligence Award - a distinguished national award for which the Navy selects one winner every year – which “commemorates the exceptional achievements of an outstanding Naval Intelligence career professional.”
As leader of the team that received an annual Navy intelligence professional award, Kirk incorrectly referred to himself as the “Intelligence Officer of the Year,” a term which can be associated with the Navy Reserve Intelligence “Junior Officer of the Year Award.” Since both awards carry equal distinction, this is a case of misidentification and not exaggeration. You can learn more about the awards here.
Mark Kirk and his team rightly earned the Rufus Taylor Award and their service should not be diminished. Kirk’s former Commanding Officer says he was “proud to nominate Mark Kirk” for the award – and called Kirk “the best intelligence officer” he ever served with. See statement.
How Does Alexi Giannoulias Compare to Mark Kirk?
While Mark Kirk has served in the Navy Reserve for 20 years, Alexi Giannoulias never served in the military.
While Mark Kirk was running intelligence support for electronic attack combat missions in Operation Allied Force (Kosovo), Alexi Giannoulias was playing basketball in Greece. (Washington Post WhoRunsGov.com). In brief, while Mark Kirk wore a U.S. Navy uniform, Alexi Giannoulias wore a basketball uniform in Greece.
While Mark Kirk was supporting electronic attack missions over Iraq, Alexi Giannoulias was partying in New Orleans at Tulane Law School. (Washington Post WhoRunsGov.com)
While Mark Kirk was serving in the National Military Command
While Mark Kirk was serving in Afghanistan, Alexi Giannoulias was covering up the millions of dollars he wiped out in the Bright Start college savings program. (Chicago Tribune, 12/23/2009)
Mark Kirk’s military service should not be denigrated by a 34-year-old media-dubbed “mob banker” who has never served our country in uniform, whose reckless lending practices cost the FDIC $394 million when they closed his family bank (FDIC, 4/23/2010), and whose risky investments cost Illinois families tens of millions in losses from the state’s college savings fund. (Chicago Tribune, 12/23/2010)