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Airman serves Commonwealth, community, country

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Claire Behney
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing
Spouse, sibling, parent, employee, Airman ... the "hats" of a member of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard are abundant, and Master Sgt. Cris Dush, 193rd Special Operations Security Forces Squadron chief of information protection, Middletown, Pennsylvania, will now add State Representative of the 66th District of Pennsylvania to his repertoire.

During the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Swearing-In Ceremony Jan. 6 in Harrisburg, Dush raised his right hand and swore into office as a new Republican representative of the state, which continues his commitment to Commonwealth, community and country.

"The Air Force has given me the opportunity to see things from the diverse perspectives of cultures around the world," said Dush. "I've also been able to see what works and what doesn't. The experiences the Air Force and the Air National Guard have afforded me in Britain, Iraq and Korea, as well as the leadership opportunities I've been able to take advantage of, have given me a great breadth of understanding of where governments fall short."

With 23 years of military service and a state civil service career with the Department of Corrections under his belt, Dush campaigned with a clear focus on his aspirations. But the decision to run was not one Dush made without great consideration. He and his wife, Traci, spent several weeks weighing their options.

"The process of getting into a race is a little daunting, but an experienced E-5 or above should be able to handle the government's paperwork end of things - the main issue is time," Dush said. "Once you've decided to run, it has to be your mission. Talking to people who will be your constituents is another key element. You have to get to know your people."

As a Guardsman, Dush had to carefully adhere to specific regulations on campaigning and entering the realm of politics.

"Air Force Instruction 51-902, Political Activities by Members of the U.S. Air Force, spells out exactly what military members can and cannot do in terms of political activity," said Maj. Kelly Solomon, 193rd Special Operations Wing judge advocate.
This AFI carefully outlines protocol and procedures for all Airmen, to include active-duty Airmen, Reservists and Guardsmen.

"It's important to consult the relevant regulations before engaging in any type of political activity," said Solomon. "It's never appropriate to engage in political activity in uniform or to engage in conduct that would bring discredit upon the armed forces."

Dush explained that he also had to take the Hatch Act (Title 5, United States Code, Sec. 7323, CH. 73--Suitability, Security, And Conduct) into consideration to pursue his political career. This act is directed to employees of state and local agencies, and as an employee of the Department of Corrections, Dush had to adhere to the regulations set forth in the Hatch Act - prohibiting these employees from seeking elective office.

"Pennsylvania's version of the Hatch Act required that I give up my state civil service position with the Department of Corrections to run," said Dush. "I will say that this is not a decision to be made lightly. Your finances have to be in order and, if you have a family, you are responsible for they are the first priority."

A native of Brookville, Pennsylvania, Dush said he grew up in a family who didn't take excuses for not doing what was right. It's with this sentiment in mind that Dush was drawn to campaign.

"Being aware of the problems our state government has and the skill sets my experience and training afford me left me with no real wiggle room on whether or not to take on the task."

Along with his integrity-focused family roots, Dush also credits his career with the Air Force and Air National Guard for equipping him for his new role.

"It's a little strange to having to go back and call him, 'Sir,'" said Capt. Jay Ostrich, wing public affairs officer, who served 12 years with Dush since beginning as airman first class.  As a civilian, Ostrich is communications manager for the Pennsylvania Speaker of the House but serves all members of the Republican Caucus to which Dush now belongs. "But I do so with great ease and respect because Rep. Dush and Master Sgt. Dush are always the same person - a humble servant to the people who really wants to make Pennsylvania a better place for everyone."

In a recent article in The Indiana Gazette, Dush was quoted as saying, "Just as I have done in my previous service in both the military and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, my objective from day one as your state representative has been to hit the ground running. The people who elected me to serve them deserve nothing less."