Montana’s Three Stooges

When I was young, I remember my dad and I watching the Three Stooges on a black and white TV. We’d laugh so hard we almost cried watching their shenanigans.

The stooges “soitenly” did silly things that made us shake our heads.

I was thinking of the Three Stooges the other day, and I think we may have the Three Stooges currently serving in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House representing Montana – I’m talking about U.S. Senators Jon Tester (Moe) and Steve Daines (Larry), and the new kid, U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke (Curly).

All three are funny and frustrating in a Three Stooges sort of way.

The stooges have come out against the expansion of the Powder River Training Complex (PRTC) which, in case you have not heard, would extend into southeastern Montana an air training area that would be used by B-1 and B-52 airplanes from Minot and Ellsworth Air Force Bases in North and South Dakota. It would expand to about 28,000 square miles from the current 8,300 square miles that is used for training.

The PRTC has been in the planning stages with officials holding several open meetings and comment periods for the better part of the last decade. On Friday the U.S. Air Force approved it which was like an open-handed Three-Stooges-type slap across the face of the delegation, and then a pull on the nose! This was after several sessions listening to whining and whimpering of Tester and Daines and, before that, former Senator Max Baucus and former Rep. Denny Rehberg. None of those four ever served in the military.

Then along came Zinke – a highly-decorated retired Navy SEAL who based his whole campaign on his military service. Being a fellow veteran, I had high hopes for Zinke.

Sadly, Zinke followed Tester and Daines by coming out against PRTC. It’s kind of like the way Curly followed Moe and Larry as members of the Three Stooges.

Zinke needs to learn quickly that he does not have to follow Tester or Daines. Zinke needs to realize that he has his own office (and desk) and each vote belongs to him, not the Montana senators. He needs to be his own person. He needs to be the leader of all things defense/military in the Montana delegation. Veterans like me expect that.

Zinke had the chance to rise above the anti-military/defense stance being spewed by Tester and Daines, but he failed. This is the same Ryan Zinke who was reprimanded by the Navy for coming to Montana looking for training areas for his SEAL teams. Now, he’s against PRTC – which is a training area that will save millions of dollars and give crews more time at home with their families.

Zinke can call this column his reprimand.

Zinke could better himself by emulating Sen. John Thune who pushed for PRTC and saved Ellsworth AFB from closing several years ago.

PRTC has one more step – approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Thune is the new Chairman of Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee which, ironically, has jurisdiction over the FAA. Thune has already met with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta asking him to expedite the FAA’s approval of PRTC.

That’s the way things roll…

The Montana delegation could have used PRTC as the basis to obtain better equipment for area Montana airports that fall in the PRTC training area, not to mention better response equipment for first responders in the area to help in case of an emergency. It could have been a win-win for all, but no.

In the end all Montana is getting is a “nyuk…nyuk…nyuk…” from our Three Stooges.


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