Kansas Common Sense

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Continued Modernization Underway at Fort Riley

On Friday, I had the opportunity to visit Fort Riley and learn more about the incredible infrastructure on base and our amazing soldiers in the Big Red One.  Brigadier General Donald MacWillie, the Senior Commander on Fort Riley, was a gracious host.  We had the chance to meet over breakfast and discuss the importance of Fort Riley to the greater Central Flint Hill Region, notably creating a total direct economic impact of $1.9 billion in fiscal year 2011.  Equally, the Central Flint Hills community is vital to the quality of life for our soldiers serving in the 1st Infantry Division.  Fort Riley is becoming the “most modernized” Division in the Army.  The Combat Aviation Brigade is the most advanced in the Army with capabilities including the new unmanned aircraft “Grey Eagle.”  The Division is also fielding the most effective tanks and infantry fighting vehicles in the world, the “Main Battle Tank” and the “Bradley.” 

Fort Riley is not only taking care of its soldiers with the latest and greatest equipment, but the brand new, state of art Mission Training Complex is dedicated to simulation training and is the very first of its kind in the Army.  It’s an innovative training complex for joint, inter-agency, inter-governmental, multi-national personnel in the United States and potentially around the world.  Over 18,000 personnel from 24 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, France and Poland have trained or are scheduled to train there in fiscal year 2012.  The Mission Training Complex is an outstanding training capability for soldiers, and because it is the very first in the Army, many others outside of Kansas are flocking to Fort Riley to train and enhance their readiness.  As a Member of the Senate Army Caucus and Senate Military Families Caucus, I believe that improving soldier readiness with equipping and training is equally important to taking great care of soldiers and their families.  I was able to receive a sneak-peek of the brand new Seitz Elementary School and see where a new middle school is planned to be built as well. 

Fort Riley will also be home to the new Irvin Army Community Hospital, scheduled to open in June 2014.  At a total of 550,000 square feet, the new hospital is 170,000 square feet larger than the current facility and will hold 2,400 more occupational therapy patients.  There will also be a dedicated unit to our soldiers in need of behavioral health services, focusing on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients.  In addition to this enormous medical center, I’m proud to hear about the partnership between Fort Riley and the Kansas State University College of Human Ecology with the development of the Institute for the Health and Security of Military Families and Partner Programs.  The partnership has created research, academic, clinical services, community outreach and education programs dedicated to the health and well-being of our military families.  Fort Riley is doing wonderful things to take care of our soldiers and I was honored to spend time with Brigadier General MacWillie and learn about all these wonderful developments. Click here to see a photo.


Attending the Blue Valley Educational Foundation Breakfast in Overland Park

On Wednesday I attended the Blue Valley Educational Foundation Community Breakfast in Overland Park.  During the breakfast, Superintendent Dr. Tom Trigg delivered his 9th “State of the District” address during which he highlighted several of Blue Valley’s accomplishments over the last year, including the completion of the Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) Accelerator.  At CAPS, juniors and seniors from Blue Valley School District high schools participate in profession-based learning experiences in business, engineering, bioscience, and human services.  The CAPS Accelerator, created in partnership with institutions of higher education and the business community, is an avenue for Blue Valley students to explore the process of innovation under the professional mentorship of scientists and business partners. 

Not only do students benefit from unique and advanced learning opportunities, but they can also earn high school math and science credit, college credit, and an Entrepreneur Certification offered through the Kauffman Foundation.  This milestone for the Blue Valley CAPS program serves as a great example of the many exciting things happening in the Blue Valley School District.  Superintendent Trigg also announced that every Blue Valley school achieved Academic Yearly Progress (AYP) for the 10th year in a row.  They are the only school district in the country with more the 20,000 students to accomplish this. During the breakfast, I was also privileged to meet several of this year’s Sunflower Ambassador Award winners.  These students and teachers are nominated by their peers for exemplifying the Blue Valley Virtues.


Joining USDA Under Secretary Michael Scuse for an Agriculture Roundtable

I joined Michael Scuse, USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service, at the National Agriculture Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs on Tuesday night for an Agriculture Roundtable. This event gave Undersecretary Scuse and me the opportunity to speak with farmers and ranchers about the drought conditions across Kansas. This drought has all 105 Kansas counties in a state of emergency and I’m glad that a representative from the USDA was there to continue this important conversation with the Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Cattleman’s Association, Kansas Wheat, Kansas Dairy Association, Kansas Soybean Association, Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman. Thank you to Under Secretary Scuse for his willingness to engage in this important issue. Click here to see a photo from the Agriculture Roundtable.


Touring Blish-Mize in Atchison

Family businesses are part of the foundation of the Kansas economy. This summer I have met Kansans from across the state and learned about their businesses large and small. This week, I had the opportunity to tour the facilities of Blish-Mize in Atchison. The company has been in operation since 1871 and has several generations of the Mize family still working today to keep the business strong. John Mize, Chairman, 4th generation; Jonathan Mize, President and CEO, 5th generation; and Greg Lutz, VP Distribution Operations showed me around and taught me a about the story of their firm. Reed Berger, a family friend who works with Berger Co. also joined to learn about technology that Blish-Mize uses to streamline business. Click here to see a photo from my visit.


Dedication of BG Products Veterans Sports Complex

On Saturday night, I attended the first football game and dedication of the brand-new $12 million BG Products Veterans Sports Complex.  The night celebrated the culmination of a community effort - a multi-partner project shared by the city of El Dorado, USD 490, and Butler Community College. The state-of-the-art venue - that will hold track, soccer, football, and other events - seats 4,500 and replaces an older stadium. 

This has been a project eight years in the making that required a strong fundraising effort and community collaboration.  The generosity of BG Products got this project jump-started and closer to completion.  El Dorado is deservedly proud of this momentous occasion and the tremendous, community effort that made it a reality.  This achievement represents an exciting time for El Dorado - this project has been a driver for economic development in this community.  Projects like these are important investments, much like the other construction projects throughout the community.  This facility will not only support current student athletes at the collegiate and grade school levels, but brings together a community of all ages for sporting and other events.  I am hopeful that this outstanding facility will be an inspiration to the Butler Grizzlies to bring home another NJCAA national championships this season, in addition to the five NJCAA national championships that they have already achieved.

Thank you to Butler Community College and their president, Dr. Jackie Vietti, for the opportunity to join in the evening’s festivities.  We appreciate the dedication and leadership of El Dorado’s Mayor Tom McKibban and USD 490 Superintendent Sue Givens, as well as others that saw this project through to completion. Click here to see a photo from the dedication event.


Speaking to the Rotary Club of Atchison

On Thursday I spoke at the Rotary Club of Atchison at the Mount Conference Center. We discussed many issues on the minds of residents including the area’s recovery from flooding last year and the drought conditions that Kansans now face across the state. The Rotary Club of Atchison has a long history of community engagement in Atchison. The Berger Family, pictured below, has produced four generations of Rotary Club presidents. Thank you to Club President Reed Berger for inviting me to visit, I enjoyed the opportunity to be back in Atchison. Click here to see a photo.

Hoisington Labor Day Parade

On Monday, I participated in the 2012 Labor Day Parade in Hoisington. It was great to visit with folks from around Barton County and mark the closing weeks of summer. I hope that everyone had an enjoyable Labor Day and found some time to relax with friends and family. Thank you to Craig Neeland for driving the vehicle I rode in during the parade. Click here to view photos from the parade.


Kansas State Fair Begins This Week

The Kansas State Fair begins this Friday, September 7th and will last through Sunday, September 16th. Each year, I travel to Hutchinson to attend the fair and visit with some of the 350,000 people who attend. The fair is the largest single event in our state and has been showcasing some of the best of Kansas for nearly a century.

This will be the 15th consecutive year that I have a booth at the fair in the Pride of Kansas Building. Members of my staff will be availiable each day of the fair to answer questions and provide information. I hope to see you and your family there! Click here for more information about the Kansas State Fair.


Now Accepting 2012 Service Academy Applications

As summer ends and a new school year begins, I want to remind students of the opportunity to apply to a United States Service Academy. Appointing Kansans to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, is one of my favorite duties as a Member of Congress. 

To find out the requirements and apply, please download an application from my website or contact my Olathe office. All application materials are due to my Olathe office by October 1, 2012. After applications have been reviewed, applicants will be notified of interviews with my Service Academy Selection Board, which will take place on Saturday, November 17, 2012 at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.

In the Office

This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below.


Constituent Visits

U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Jeff Chafin of Overland Park


Many Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the US Capitol this week including:

Martha McCann
Mary Seim

Robin Rottinghaus

Jason Martin

Donald Cook
Clara Cook

April Cook
Elaine Cook
Deborah Cook


Contact Me

It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Please let me know how I can be of assistance. To send me an email, click here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.

Very truly yours,



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