House Passes Ruppersberger’s Legislation to Help MD National Guard Members in Egypt

By Ron Snyder, Patch

The U.S. House of Representatives Thursday passed legislation written and introduced by Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger to help Maryland’s National Guard soldiers currently serving in Egypt come home to visit their families.

The legislation, in the form of an amendment to the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed in a 322-96 vote. The NDAA must now pass the U.S. Senate before it can be signed into law by the President.

“Never in my experience have I seen legislation go from introduction to passage so quickly and that is a testament to the bipartisan nature of my amendment. This is the way Congress is supposed to work,” said Ruppersberger in a statement. “Today, we have sent a message to the citizen soldiers of the National Guard serving everywhere that we appreciate their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their families.”

About 440 Maryland Army National Guard Soldiers from around the state have been deployed to the Sinai Peninsula for one year. The National Guard has been working to maintain the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel as part of the Multinational Force and Observers, or MFO.

Under current law, members of the MFO in the Sinai are not eligible for the military’s rest and recuperation benefits. This means Maryland’s soldiers must pay their own way home for leave and even family emergencies.

Ruppersberger’s amendment to the NDAA adds the MFO, Egypt, to the rest and recuperation program. More than 30 family members of Maryland National Guard soldiers attended a news conference to announce Ruppersberger’s amendment earlier this month.

The soldiers are assigned to the 1st Battalion 175th Infantry Regiment. The peacekeeping mission on the Sinai has been ongoing for 30 years, but was assigned to the National Guard in 2002. The Maryland National Guard soldiers are manning remote observation posts and checkpoints throughout the peninsula.

For many members, this is a second, third and even fourth tour of duty.