Did Congressman Rick Nolan Lie About His Military Record?

Eighth congressional district DFL Congressman Rick Nolan speaks to a crowd at the University of Minnesota Duluth Kirby Student Center Tuesday, October 30, 2012 in Duluth, Minn/ Credit: NRCC

DULUTH, M.N., — With less than a week left until the general election, an explosive allegation out of Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District is leaving voters asking the question, did DFL Congressman Rick Nolan lie about his military record?

The story first appeared in the Zenith City Weekly with the allegation Congressman Rick Nolan lied about his military record. The author, Shelly Mategko cites three 2014 articles from the Mesabi Daily News, Grand Rapids Herald-Review, and Hibbing Daily Tribune. All three articles report that Rep. Nolan told a group of veterans that while he did not serve in the active-duty military, he was proud to have served as an army reservist for two years.

Alpha News contacted Rep. Nolan’s D.C. office to ask about his military service. Nolan’s press secretary responded to our inquiry stating, Rep. Rick Nolan was in the United States Army Reserve Officers Training program from the Fall of 1962 until the spring of 1964 while he was a student at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN.”

The United States Army Reserve Officers Training program is better known by its abbreviation, the ROTC program.

Speaking with an ROTC enrollment officer at St. John’s University, where Nolan attended, the officer explained he did not have records dating that far back. However, the ROTC program is an elective which has courses open to any student who is a freshman or sophomore in college. Anyone willing to make the commitment to serve their country could serve in an official capacity known as simultaneous membership program (SMP) in their junior and senior year.

Rep. Nolan’s alleged service coincides with his freshman and sophomore year at St. John’s University. Based on the average college school year, Nolan would have spent just 20 months with the Army Reserves.

Information gathered from the goarmy.com website suggests that Rep. Nolan could not have possibly served from Fall of 1962 to Spring of 1964 while he attended classes at St. John’s University.  

To become a reservist, a candidate would have to complete a 10-week basic combat training program. After completing basic training, they would then attend advanced individual training (AIT) where they learn the skills necessary for their chosen military career. This process can be completed in six months or two years depending on the chosen field.

While Rep. Nolan’s position in the Army Reserves has not been confirmed, he would have had to complete more than eight consecutive months of training before formal placement in the  Reserves.

Rep. Nolan graduated high school in the Spring of 1962. In the Fall of 1962, he began his freshman year of St. John’s University where he spent two years studying. Nolan would then finish his degree at the University of Minnesota in 1966. Rep. Nolan would not have been able to complete 8-½ months of training while taking a full course load at St. John’s University as training is a full-time commitment.

Alpha News checked out  National Archives online records, Ancestry.com, and other online military records. They show no evidence of Rep. Nolan’s formal involvement with the military. Looking at biographical accounts on Rep. Nolan’s life found on Wikipedia and his own website show no mention of his formal role with the Army Reserves.

Alpha News requested clarification from Nolan’s D.C. office about these findings. The request for clarification was not returned.

Rep. Nolan’s participation in the ROTC elective at St. John’s University is not considered actual military service according to the school’s ROTC Enrollment Officer.

Preya Samsundar

Preya Samsundar was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this Spring with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in Strategic Communications. Preya has previously worked on several State Campaign Races.