Lesch headed for basic training

Fourth-term St. Paul DFLer John Lesch said today he’s heading for Fort Benning next week to start basic training with the Minnesota National Guard.

lesch.jpgThat’s right, he’s run off and joined the army.

Or the Minnesota National Guard, more properly put.

It’s something he says he’s always considered. (He is also a former seminarian, and once considered the Catholic priesthood.) He said his controversial and unauthorized trip to Baghdad in 2006 helped renew his interest in military service — even though U.S. authorities weren’t exactly thrilled at the time that he’d shown up uninvited in their midst in Iraq.

Still, Lesch says he’s going to do it the right way this time. He’s temporarily leaving his job as a St. Paul city proseuctor and going to Georgia for basic training. He plans to return to Minnesota in time for the legislative session on February 4.

While active military service in the Legislature is rare, it’s not unheard of: one-time DFL Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson was a National Guard general while at the Capitol.

Lesch, though, is going in at a little lower rank. He says he’ll be an E-4, one step above a private 1st class.

“I have a lot of constituents and many of my colleagues have constituents who have been activated and deployed overseas,” Lesch said. “I’m going to get a different perspective about how to serve those constituents and what their needs are.”

And then some, no doubt.

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