Heard on the Hill

Perdue’s Fellows Connect Congress to the Corps

Maj. Simba Chigwida is a national defense fellow this year

Georgia Sen. David Perdue poses with Maj. Jim Purekal, left, and Maj. Simba Chigwida in front of the Marine Corps War Memorial. (Courtesy Perdue’s office)

Georgia Sen. David Perdue’s office has had the unique opportunity of having two active-duty Marine Corps officers working there.

The Marine Corps affords some Marines the opportunity to apply for congressional fellowship positions and, if accepted, assigns them to a House or Senate office. Of the roughly 100 Marine fellows currently on the Hill, Perdue’s office has been assigned two back-to-back, which is pretty rare.

Maj. Simba Chigwida, a native of Zimbabwe, is currently a national defense fellow in Perdue’s office. He replaced Maj. Jim Purekal.

“Jim and Simba are fantastic young leaders and our country is indebted to them for their service,” Perdue said.

“Working with them has taught me a lot about the ever-evolving obstacles facing our active-duty troops and their families today,” the first-term Republican added.

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Georgia is home to 9 active-duty Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine installations.

Chigwida, 39, started in January and his fellowship ends in December. He said the program gives him an appreciation for “how hard senators work, how hard their staff works.”

“Especially the staffers … how much they know and how knowledgeable they are. Also that the Constitution has a role, and responsibilities and understanding that there are checks and balances, seeing that in action. I think in the Department of Defense, as large as we are, we can try to understand and appreciate the role of the Congress,” Chigwida said.

Perdue is hopeful the experience teaches fellows “how communication and cooperation between the Department of Defense and legislative branch are key to advancing our shared goal: providing for our country’s national defense.”

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Chigwida’s fellowship started right on time for a new Congress and White House.

“It’s been a very interesting year with a new administration taking over so I think probably one of the highlights has been seeing the nominations process, getting an opportunity to meet with a lot of the nominees that have had individual sit-downs with Sen. Perdue and then also getting the opportunity to prepare hearing questions,” Chigwida said.

Perdue serves on the Armed Services Committee and the senator said it has been “extremely helpful to have current service members on my team to provide real-time feedback on the critical issues.”

Chigwida said that with Perdue on Armed Services, “It’s great to see how things operate behind the scenes in the legislative branch.”

He specifically found the recent National Defense Authorization Act process “very interesting.”

“It has been interesting to see how dynamic the environment is in the Senate and how priorities change, of course, depending on what’s on the legislative agenda,” he said.

After being accepted by the Marines to apply for the fellowship, Chigwida said he went through several interviews before landing the position in Perdue’s office. Prior to starting, there was training about the legislative process and ethics. 

After the fellowship, he said he could get a legislative liaison position in either the Senate, House or Pentagon.

Chigwada’s predecessor, Purekal, is currently working in the Marine Corps’ Senate Liaison office.

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