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Congressman Trent Kelly promoted to Brigadier General

Trent Kelly, representative for Mississippi’s First Congressional District, has been promoted to the rank of Brigadier General by the National Guard.

Kelly is the first sitting Mississippi congressman since Maj. Gen. G.V. Sonny Montgomery to also serve as a Mississippi National Guard general officer.

After joining the Mississippi National Guard in December 1985, the Saltillo native says his time in the service has been an “American dream.”

“I joined as a private. I didn’t know about the GI Bill, just wanted to serve my country,” he said. “It’s been an amazing ride.”

Spending 32 years as a guardsman has sent Kelly, now a member of the Congressional Armed Services Committee, straight to the front line.

Routine deployments

He’s deployed three times, including 2000, when he was part of Operation Desert Storm and 2005 and 2009, when he deployed to Iraq.

Maj. Gen. Janson Boyles, who serves alongside Kelly, says when the two first met, he knew Kelly would be an asset to his team in the 150th engineers battalion.

“I asked some commanders who I needed to hire, and they all said Maj. Trent Kelly,” Boyles said. “He was inactive because of his attorney duties, but I met with him at the truck stop in Louisville, Miss. and the rest is history.”

Reflecting on his deployments gives Kelly a greater appreciation for the men who protect their country overseas, he says. Most recently, Kelly and eight other congressmen flew to Afghanistan to provide Thanksgiving dinner for troops at three military bases.

“I’ve missed five Thanksgivings and a couple Christmases,” Kelly said. “Now, I get to go home at the end of the day. These guys don’t.”

Boyles says Kelly’s unique style of leadership distinguishes him as a general officer.

“He’s the kind of guy who will stay out in the field with the soldiers,” Boyles said. “He does that to encourage them, and they can teach him new things, too. Trent is truly a soldier’s soldier.”

In the midst of serving his country, Kelly attended East Mississippi Community College and the University of Mississippi School of Law before his appointment to the prestigious U.S. Army War College. He was also elected District Attorney for Tupelo in 2011.

Kelly’s appointment to the U.S. Army War College is something he says plays a big role in his functions as a general officer and congressman. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, he says the critical thinking skills he learned are highly beneficial.

“I applied [to War College] right after I got back from Iraq,” he said. “It taught me about strategic thinking and the second and third-order effects of the decisions you’re making. In Congress, it helps to understand the challenges and consequences of what we’re doing.”

Boyles says Kelly’s experiences both in the National Guard and in civilian life make him an asset to his team.

“By bringing him into the fold, I have an additional experienced man on my team,” he said. “He’s a traditional soldier with a job outside the military. He just happens to be a congressman.”