Senator Joni Ernst has a hobby you might not know about.
Ernst and her staff start many mornings with a Ruck March.
They walk around Washington D.C. while wearing military style ruck sacks.
The Capitol Dome glows like a giant moon as Senator Joni Ernst and her staff trudge up the Capitol Hill in the hour before sunrise, before the tourists and the traffic.
Under the weight of a 40-pound backpack, the senator leads her team on a ruck march.
A few times a month Ernst, her team and anyone willing to get up a little early will trek around the Senate Offices Buildings and the National Mall.
“There’s no pressure, not a lot of stress, an easy walk, and a great time to have conversations about everything that’s going on,” says Joni Ernst.
The marches aren’t mandatory, but staffers say they’re gently encouraged to attend.
When they see how much their boss enjoys the marches, it’s difficult to say no.
“It’s just visiting in a casual setting and builds a camaraderie and that translates back to the office,” says Leigh.
Ernst began doing ruck marches while she served in the Iowa National Guard.
She says the military-style marches teach valuable lessons that apply to politics.
“It’s about teamwork. We start as one group and we finish as one group. It doesn’t matter how fast or how slow you are, we accommodate everyone. It translates to the work that we do. We all come from different staffs, different offices but we all have to pull together,” says Ernst.
As the sun rises, the team heads back to the office to start the work day.
They say the feel accomplished, a little exhausted — and ready to take on whatever Washington may bring.