Sen. Ayotte gives soldier her guest seat for State of the Union speech
By GRETYL MACALASTER Union Leader Correspondent
Sen. Kelly Ayotte with U.S. Air Force Capt. Jeffrey Osgood, who has accepted her invitation to take a seat as her guest at Tuesday's State of the Union address in Washington, D.C. The two met in 2013 while Osgood was on a one-year deployment to Afghanistan. (COURTESY)
PORTSMOUTH — U.S. Air Force Capt. Jeffrey Osgood thought he would be spending last weekend on a mission in the Pacific.
Instead, he was busy preparing and packing for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity offered to him by U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte to attend Tuesday's State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., as her guest.
Ayotte and Osgood met in 2013 while Osgood was on a one-year deployment in Afghanistan.
The two spent over an hour talking about what conditions were like for Osgood and about the work he was doing. Ayotte also asked about his family. When she returned to the States, she put in a call to Osgood's wife, Christa, and their two sons, Justin, 6, and Waylan, now 2, to check in and see how they were doing.
Last Wednesday, Osgood learned that Ayotte had offered him her guest seat at tonight's State of the Union address in Washington, D.C.
"I'm shocked," Osgood said by phone Monday as he prepared to board a plan from Boston to Washington, D.C.
In an email Monday, Ayotte expressed her pleasure that Osgood had accepted the invitation.
"Captain Osgood has served our country with distinction, including active-duty service in Afghanistan, where I met him last year. I'm so pleased he accepted this invitation, and I hope he enjoys the State of the Union," Ayotte said.
Osgood currently serves as an operations support flight commander with the 64th Air Refueling Squadron based at Pease Air National Guard Base in Portsmouth. The 64th is an active-duty squadron that helps support the operations of the 157th Air National Guard Refueling Wing.
Osgood is responsible for the training and combat readiness of a 19-member flight crew and is a KC-135R/T instructor pilot, responsible for training 16 air crew members.
The Danvers, Mass., native has flown over 120 missions totaling more than 850 combat hours and has deployed seven times in support of various operations.
Although he is a pilot, his main job in Afghanistan was on the ground serving as an aviation liaison officer.
Osgood said it was rewarding to be able to take members of the Afghani military home from war zones for visits with their families."A lot of people who go do computer work or don't get outside the wire," he said. "They don't see the people or interact with them all the time. So it was nice to interact with somebody and get feedback right away. I am pretty proud of that."Osgood has served with the U.S. Air Force for about 14 years.
Tonight, he will meet with Ayotte and members of her staff at her office in the Russell Senate Building before heading to the Capitol for dinner before the State of the Union address.
For those without a ticket, watch parties are being held in different parts of the state.
The New Hampshire chapter of Americans for Prosperity will hold a watch party at Murphy's Taproom in Manchester beginning at 7:30 p.m.
The event is free of charge and attendees will have the chance to provide feedback on what the President says or does not say during his address.
The State of the Union address is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m.