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Off to Iraq

Hill Climbers doesn’t usually report on interns. But with Ashley Schmidt, 23, we will make an exception. After all, it isn’t every day that our Climbers move on to Iraq. [IMGCAP(1)]

Schmidt, a member of Ohio’s Air National Guard who has been interning in Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-Conn.) office since January, will be heading to Iraq in the middle of May. She left Capitol Hill last week and will be receiving her bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University in early May before shipping out.

In Iraq, she will serve on a 120-day rotation.

“I will be doing a whole bunch of different administrative tasks,” she said in an interview. “I won’t be leaving base so [I am not] worrying about safety and that aspect. … I will probably just see tents and buildings and a lot of sand and rock.”

The Swanton, Ohio, native joined Ohio’s Air National Guard in September 2001. She previously served overseas in Qatar in 2005 and has volunteered to go to help secure the Arizona border in October after she returns from Iraq.

“I volunteered about a year ago for that,” she said. “They asked for volunteers, you know, ‘Hey, you can go to Arizona and do border control for 30-day periods.’ And so I said, ‘Oh I’ll go’… I love our country so I am constantly volunteering to make it a safer place.”

While her commitment with the Air National Guard is soon to expire, Schmidt has no plans on leaving.

“My six-year mark is actually coming up and I am going to re-enlist when I am overseas in Iraq,” she said. “I joined

because I always wanted to serve my country, and in addition to that they help with paying for school — they pay for 100 percent tuition.”

As for working on the Hill, Schmidt hints that Hillites may not have seen the last of her yet. [IMGCAP(2)]

“I have learned a lot definitely,” she said about her time on the Hill. “I have been able to work with incredible people [and learn] how much work really goes in to getting all this stuff done … I would definitely come back.”

In addition to everything else she is doing, Schmidt is also, according to Dodd’s press secretary, “leading the Air National Guard in recruited enlistments through the Guard Recruiter Assistance Program, a program which began in April 2006.”

“I am proud to have such an outstanding young woman serving as an intern in my office,” Dodd wrote in an e-mail. “I am deeply grateful not only for her help to my staff, but also for her service to our nation as part of the Ohio Air National Guard. America is a better country, and the world is a safer place, thanks to men and women like Ashley. I wish her a safe journey, and continued success in all her future endeavors.”

Holt Hires New Chief of Staff. Tom O’Donnell, 43, is coming back to the Hill to work as chief of staff to Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J).

Previously, O’Donnell worked as a vice president for Congressional affairs at the Continental Consulting Group since 2002. From 1989 to 2002, he worked for then-Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.) as his military legislative assistant and then legislative director in addition to simultaneously working as a Veterans’ Affairs Committee professional staff member when Evans was ranking member on the committee. He also worked as a military legislative assistant for then-Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.) from 1987 to 1989.

From Boonville, N.Y., O’Donnell earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from State University of New York at Plattsburgh.

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