Having worked a couple of campaigns, I can tell you what the first things you do are when your candidate tells you that they plan to go take a couple of weeks off in July. First, you laugh uncomfortably and try to figure out why they would make such a bad joke. Then, when you find out they’re not kidding, you look for a suitably sharp object to slit your wrists. But we may have found the exception to the rule out in Iowa where Senate candidate Joni Ernst is out of pocket for the next fortnight for a very good reason. She’s a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa National Guard and is reporting for duty today. (Note to John Kerry: this is what it actually looks like.)

Republicans are appealing to Iowans to help campaign for Joni Ernst while she’s on leave for two weeks for active duty training.

Ernst, a candidate for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat and a battalion commander in the Iowa Army National Guard, leaves Friday for Fort McCoy for annual training.

“During this time, she will not be able to fund-raise, walk in parades, door knock or do other political activity,” Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a letter posted on the party’s website this afternoon. “We know Bruce Braley and his liberal D.C. pals will continue to their slash-and-burn campaign against Joni while she’s on duty, so anything you can do to help us until Joni returns is greatly appreciated.”

But Joni had one last duty to perform before heading out, and that was to record the GOP weekly address in response to President Obama’s radio address. Andrew Malcolm has the details.

Hello, this is Joni Ernst.

I’m a mother and grandmother, a soldier and proud to be Iowa’s Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. (Scroll down for video of these remarks.)

I get asked all the time what made me want to join the military. And the answer is simple.

When I was attending college, I went on an agricultural exchange to the Soviet Union. And I saw with my own eyes what a nation without freedom looks like. I saw what happens to people when they lose their liberty.

When I came home, I decided that it wasn’t enough for me to simply enjoy freedom and liberty. I had to do my part to protect and preserve it.

The full comments, including a host of observations on the challenges we face today and how to address them, are included at the link. But Joni is one heck of a speaker, so you may just want to watch the video yourself. And here it is.