NEWINGTON — On a recent trip to Afghanistan, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte spent nearly an hour chatting with Air Force Capt. Jeffrey Osgood.
Osgood, a Kittery, Maine, resident stationed at Pease Air National Guard Base, recalls the meeting well. It turns out Ayotte does, too.
Late last week, the first-term Republican invited Osgood to join her for President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, which will be held tonight. Each senator is allowed to invite one person for the occasion.
Osgood, 34, called the invitation surprising and humbling.
“I am so shocked, and I will be continue shocked until it get to the Russell (Senate) Office Building,” he said Monday from Logan International Airport as he waited for a JetBlue flight to Washington, D.C.
At first, however, Osgood didn't think the request was serious. He wondered why a U.S. senator would choose a “lowly pilot” ahead of others with more experience. A day later, he got a call from Ayotte's staff confirming the invite was real.
Osgood, who grew up in Danvers, Mass., has been in the military for 14 years. Over the years, he's flown countless missions over Afghanistan and other international hot spots. Most recently, he's piloted hulking Boeing KC-135 refueling plane. He currently works as an active duty operations support flight commander for the 64th Air Refueling Squadron at Pease.
Osgood served as a liaison officer in Kabul, Afghanistan, from July 2012 to July 2013. He met Ayotte while she toured NATO's International Security Assistance Force headquarters in January 2013 with several other senators.
The two began talking and didn't stop for nearly an hour, he recalled.
Ayotte also called Osgood's wife, Christa, when she returned to the U.S. and later shared photos taken with Osgood in Afghanistan.
“Captain Osgood has served our country with distinction, including active duty service in Afghanistan, where I met him last year,” Ayotte said in a statement. “I'm so pleased he accepted this invitation, and I hope he enjoys the State of the Union.”
Osgood landed in Washington Monday night. He'll meet with Ayotte's staff at the Russell building this afternoon and join her for dinner at the Capitol before the speech. He'll watch the address from the chamber's gallery.
Back at Pease, Osgood said his colleagues were happy he got the chance to attend the speech.
“There are some others who would love to go as well,” he said.