Michigan senator is trained to jump out of airplanes for Army Reserve

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

It's nighttime somewhere in the sky over Georgia, and one of Michigan's 38 state senators is about to jump from a plane.

"Every time I’m in the aircraft, I’m thinking, 'Am I doing this?'" Adam Hollier said. "The fastest way is out the door."

The plane is about 1,200 feet above ground. Hollier checks his body position. He makes sure his feet and knees are together. He counts to 6,000 in increments of a thousand. His parachute's canopy opens.

Hollier, a Democratic lawmaker from Detroit, recently missed about 30 votes and eight days of session in the Senate. He was absent because he was training to become a paratrooper at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The 34-year-old is one of dozens of state legislators nationally who also serve in the National Guard or U.S. Army Reserve. Hollier is in the reserve. He said it's important to have lawmakers who've served in the military, and his experience has spurred him to try to make that service easier for other Michigan residents.

Michigan Sen. Adam Hollier, 34, recently trained to become paratrooper. Hollier serves in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Hollier recently graduated from what's known as airborne school. Over two days, he did five jumps out of planes. Some of the jumps occurred on Nov. 13, a day the Senate was in session.

"That’s how my unit gets places," Hollier said. "It is a method of delivery. Some people drive to where they are going. Some people walk. We step out of airplanes."

The question of how Hollier balances serving in the U.S. Army Reserve and the Michigan Legislature brings a quick response: He does it the same way people who aren't in elected positions do.

While he's one of 38 senators and can get away for training, there are other reserve members who are the lone employee or one of two employees where they work, he said.

“Those are the folks that need the protections," Hollier said.

Before leaving for his three-week training, Hollier introduced a bill on Oct. 24 that would provide tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed members of the National Guard or military reserve forces.

Hollier, whose father was a firefighter, said he's always wanted to join the military.

Out of high school, he wanted to go to the U.S. Naval Academy, but his mom nixed the possibility, he said. At the age of 30, Hollier went to basic training. Now, with a wife, Krystle, and daughter, he has been in the military for four years.

Last year, he was elected to the Michigan Senate.

"I think it’s so critically important that people in the Legislature serve," Hollier said. "That’s how our country was founded."

He added, "When those folks talk about whether or not to go to war, having a real understanding of what it’s like makes a big difference."

Incoming State Senator Adam Hollier D-Detroit,  is surrounded by his family on the floor of the Senate as he is sworn in by Chief Justice Stephen Markman  in Lansing,  Wednesday, January 9, 2019.

A 2010 report from the National Conference of State Legislatures said at that time there were 63 state lawmakers serving in the U.S. military in reserve units or National Guard units.

The Michigan Senate has two: Hollier and Tom Barrett, a Republican from Charlotte who serves in the National Guard.

Instead of jumping out of planes, Barrett flies helicopters.

Serving in the military and in the Legislature is a "balancing act," Barrett said. There are days when he brings his flight suit with him to Lansing for his Senate duties and, later, does a training flight.

"I commend anybody who is able to serve in the military while having a challenging civilian job," Barrett said.

Hollier's tax credit bill is awaiting a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.