Congressman Dave Loebsack has just returned this morning from his fifth trip to Afghanistan and he says troop moral is “pretty good.” Loebsack, a Democrat from Mount Vernon, is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“This is the third Thanksgiving where I have been with troops overseas,” Loebsack says. “The first Thanksgiving I was in office I actually was visiting one of our wounded warriors from Shueyville in Walter Reed (Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.) and this Friday my wife, Terry, and I will be going over to Walter Reed, visiting with wounded warriors.” 

Loebsack spent two full days in Afghanistan during this just-concluded trip. “We were in Kabul,” Loebsack says. “We also went down to Camp Leatherneck which is a major Marine base in the southern part of the country to assess the situation in Helmand Province where there’s a lot of activity at the moment.” 

Moral among the troops is “pretty good,” according to Loebsack.  “They’re convinced, obviously, that the mission is justified and they’re very working hard. They don’t have a lot of time to stop and think about things. They’re just working away and I did get to have lunch with three of my constituents from the second district of Iowa down in Camp Leatherneck. These are active duty Marines and it’s a tough area down there,” Loebsack says. “It’s out in the middle of nowhere, literally. One of the dustiest places I’ve ever been in my life, but they are doing their job. They are very serious about it and we can really be very proud of those folks.”

Loebsack just learned of the skirmish between North and South Korea when he landed back in the U.S. “I haven’t been able to find out much about it as you might imagine,” Loebsack said during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa early this morning, “so I’m really reluctant to make any comment about it at this point, although clearly if it was a provocation on the part of the North (Koreans) their actions should be condemned and I think that’s what’s happening around the world.”

North and South Korea have just had one of the most significant skirmishes since the Korean War.  The North Koreans attacked an island in a disputed border area.  At least two South Korean marines were killed in the shelling.  Three civilians and 16 other South Korean soldiers were injured. 

“Obviously that’s a very, very dangerous part of the world right there on the 38th Parallel. There are troops stationed there on either side of the border. It’s very close to Seoul,” Loebsack says. “I’m just going to wait and see exactly sort of what transpired as best as I can. You know I’m on the Armed Services Committee and I’m sure at some point we’re going to be having hearings on that as well, but I’m not anxious at this point to weigh in on it, as you might imagine, having just gotten back.”

Loebsack plans to go back to Afghanistan this spring or summer to visit with Iowa National Guard troops who have been deployed there.