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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) revealed on Monday that she will be taking a two-week leave of absence from her presidential campaign in order to report for active duty with the Hawaiian Army National Guard.
“I’m stepping off of the campaign trail for a couple of weeks and putting on my Army uniform to go on a joint training exercise mission in Indonesia,” Gabbard said during an interview with CBSN’s Caitlin Huey-Burns.
“I will be doing a training exercise with the Indonesian military, focused on a few different things like counterterrorism, humanitarian aid, and disaster response,” she continued. “And joining my brothers and sisters from the Hawaii National Guard in doing so.”
The Democratic presidential hopeful stated that while people have been urging her to find a way out of serving in order to focus on her campaign, she is looking forward to the mission so that she can further serve the citizens of United States.
“I love our country, I love being able to serve our country in so many ways including as a soldier,” Gabbard said. “So, while some people are telling me like, ‘Gosh, this is a terrible time to leave the campaign, can’t you find a way out of it,’ you know, that’s not what this is about.”
“I’m not really thinking about how this will impact my campaign,” she continued. “I’m looking forward to being able to fulfill my service and my responsibility.”
Gabbard acknowledged that the deadline to qualify for the third round of Democratic primary debates is coming up and that she has still not met the benchmarks to participate, but noted “there’s a lot that is out of [her] control.”
The Hawaiian congresswoman has made it to the halfway mark toward qualifying, having met the 130,000 individual donor threshold. However, she still needs to reach 2% in at least three more DNC-recognized polls to nab a podium in the September debate.
“I’ll be paying attention to obviously what’s going on, and watching the news, and keeping up on things, but I will be stepping away from the campaign and relying on my campaign team to do what they do,” Gabbard said, explaining that she will not be able to monitor or check in with her campaign while she’s serving on active duty.
Gabbard previously took a two-week leave of absence from her congressional duties when she reported for active duty in 2017. This is her first time doing so as a presidential contender.
“It’s hard to separate all of the different experiences that I have, but with this, there’s a lot of detailed work that we will be doing while we’re there and the preparation that goes into it,” Gabbard said. “And so wearing that uniform, I’m going straight into soldier-mode and focused on that mission ahead of us.”
“It’s impossible to separate the experience I have serving on the [House] Foreign Affairs Committee, on the [House] Armed Services Committee, as we’re going through these exercises,” she continued. “I think it’s an added value in bringing these two different perspectives together — those of the policy makers in Washington and that of a soldier that is charged with executing the mission that they’re charged with.”