Bergman’s military experience called upon in trip to South Korea
WASHINGTON — It’s a busy life for a congressman who is up for re-election in November, but it wasn’t too busy for U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, to jump on a plane and head to South Korea earlier the month.
Bergman, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant general, is the highest-ranking combat veteran ever elected to Congress. He said because of that, he is often consulted on matters of the military.
“It’s a chance for me to be a resource, a mentor for folks who want to make a good vote and have questions about the military,” he said.
His expertise meant he was asked to join a diplomatic congressional trip just after the Fourth of July to South Korea, where he spent three full days, discussing military plans in the focused-upon Korean Peninsula and meeting with South Korean officials. Much of what he did, he said harkened back to the types of military meetings he was part of while in active service.
As for reported progress between North Korea and the rest of the world, Bergman said he is “cautiously optimistic.”
“A word I hear people using is pragmatic, but optimistic,” he said. “The pragmatism comes in holding North Korea accountable for its steps forward in its complete and verifiable denuclearization.
“There will be hiccups, but we know for a fact that the sanctions that have been put on North Korea for their having less than great behavior when it comes to developing nuclear capabilities are having an effect, and we need to make sure we are deliberate in maintaining those sanctions until we see irrefutable evidence that they have held up their part of the bargain.”
Bergman said it was fascinating to visit the Korean Demilitarized Zone and the iconic buildings at the border viewed across the world when officials have crossed or prisoners have been exchanged. He also was amazed by the farming in the Seoul area despite its massive population and density.
Closer to home, Bergman continues to toggle between tending to matters to Washington and visiting people in Michigan’s vast First Congressional District. Among the Northern Michigan issues he is working on:
• The Cormorant Relief Act, which passed the House Committee on Natural Resources last week. Bergman and others has been pressing the need for greater cormorant management, as the birds can have a negative effect on fisheries.
“(This will allows us to be) in control of what the cormorants are doing to our recreational and commercial fishing as well as our hatcheries,” Bergman said. “That bird population needs to be managed without fear of it coming extinct. It’s managing population so that there’s a balance between the cormorants and the fish in the Great Lakes.”
• His effort to have the federal government build a new lock in Sault Ste. Marie. A recent study from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spoke to the high benefit-cost ratio of building a new lock.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Bergman said. “We have maintained the foot on the gas pedal in getting energy behind the Soo Locks modernization plan and the reasons we need it. The president has prioritized it in his remarks.”
• His effort, along with Michigan U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, in getting federal relief to the Upper Peninsula following severe flash flooding there in June.
“My hat is off to my fellow Yoopers that they turned to make sure everyone was OK and accounted for and to start the process of getting roads back in order and getting things cleared and assessing damage,” Bergman said. “Now the time is right for the federal government to be involved.”
Bergman said he is pleased with the efforts of the current Congress, which he said the numbers bear it out to be the most bipartisan Congress in history.
“By and large, we are working together,” he said.
He said he doesn’t plan on being a part of many diplomatic trips like the one to South Korea, as his efforts will remain on representing his constituents. On that end, he’ll be continuing to hit the road early and often.
“The good Lord gave us 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week, and I try to use all of them,” he said.