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Joni Ernst
Joni Ernst Official photo portrait 114th Congress.jpg
United States Senator
from Iowa
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Serving with Chuck Grassley
Preceded by Tom Harkin
Member of the Iowa Senate
from the 12th district
In office
January 5, 2011 – November 28, 2014
Preceded by Kim Reynolds
Succeeded by Mark Costello
Personal details
Joni Kay Culver

July 1, 1970 (1970-07-01) (age 51)
Red Oak, Iowa, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Gail Ernst
Children Libby
Alma mater Iowa State University
Columbus State University
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Branch/service  United States Army
Iowa Army National Guard
Years of service 1993–present
Rank US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel
Unit 185th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Iowa Army National Guard
Battles/wars Iraq War

Joni Kay Ernst (née Culver, July 1, 1970) is an American combat veteran and politician serving as the junior United States Senator for Iowa since 2015. A Republican, she served in the Iowa Senate from 2011 to 2014.

She served in the Iowa Army National Guard from 1993 to 2015, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. Ernst is the first woman to represent Iowa in the United States Congress and the first female combat veteran elected to the United States Senate from any state.

Early life

Ernst was born Joni Kay Culver in Montgomery County, Iowa, the daughter of Marilyn and Richard Culver. She was valedictorian of her class at Stanton High School. Ernst earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Iowa State University, and a Master of Public Administration degree from Columbus State University. While in college, Ernst took part in an agricultural exchange to the Soviet Union.

Military career

Ernst served as logistics officer and attained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard. Near the end of her career, she served as the commanding officer of the 185th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion at Camp Dodge, the largest battalion in the Iowa Army National Guard. Upon her retirement from the military in 2015, Ernst had served 23 years between the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard. She spent 12 months in Kuwait in 2003–04 as the company commander of the 1168th Transportation Company during the Iraq War.

Iowa State Senate

Ernst was elected the Montgomery County Auditor in 2004 and re-elected in 2008.

Ernst was elected to the Iowa State Senate in a special election in 2011 and re-elected in 2012. She represented District 12, which serves the southwest part of the state. Ernst was a member of the Education, Appropriations, Veterans Affairs, Rules and Administration and Health and Human Services committees of the Iowa State Senate.

Following her election to the U.S. Senate, she resigned from the Iowa State Senate effective November 28, 2014.

Personal life

In 1993, Joni Ernst married Gail Ernst. He is a retired Command Sergeant Major in the United States Army Rangers and currently an airport manager. Ernst resides in Red Oak, Iowa with her husband and their daughter, Libby.

Ernst is a lifetime member of the Montgomery County Republican Women, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2265, Montgomery County Court of Honor, Altrusa, PEO Chapter HB, a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, and member of the Montgomery County Farm Bureau. She is a member of the Mamrelund Lutheran Church (ELCA) of Stanton, Iowa.

On August 27, 2018, Ernst announced that she was in the process of a divorce.

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