"There's no substitute for experience," says the old proverb.

It's true. If you want to learn more about baseball, go to Iron Man Cal Ripkin, who played for 21 seasons.

Want to hear stories about the golden years of NASCAR racing? Listen to the King, Richard Petty.

Having trouble understanding a Bible verse? A person with Billy Graham's lifetime of experience would be a good source.

In the same light, when former serviceman Ryan Zinke talks about the military or about national defense, his words carry some degree of authority. A retired Navy commander, he holds a MBA in Finance and a Masters of Science in Global Leadership from the University of San Diego. Zinke retired from active duty in 2008 after serving 23 years as a Navy SEAL.

Serving over two decades as a Navy SEAL is quite remarkable.

Anyone who has seen those incredible documentaries about what our Green Beret and Navy Seal recruits go through must realize just how elite these men are as warfare specialists. Just qualifying for the training itself is special, but then when you consider that the dropout rate for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL candidates (BUDS) can reach over 90 percent, be advised that we're talking about the best of the best here.

Zinke led SEAL Team Six in the 1990s and commanded the Arabian Peninsula Task Force from 2004 to 2008 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now a state senator in Montana, he senses a great deal of fear and nervousness in people about the direction we're headed in as a country.

He has been critical of President Obama for his lack of ability as a national security leader, the proposed budget cuts in national defense and his mishandling of the bin Laden mission, including the political exploitation of our special forces.

While Obama was quick to cash in on the bin Laden mission for political points, Zinke was shocked that the president carelessly identified SEAL Team Six as the group that handled the mission. He said as soon as Obama named the specific force, that group was put in a great deal of risk.

Zinke said that Obama also fumbled the ball and upset the special operations community when he made the commercial with President Clinton which was done strictly for political gain. It concentrated on showing how Obama had taken a great risk for the decision he made to give the mission a green light.

Zinke explained that the mission itself was not about a single order; it was something that the elite force had been working on for years. He said Obama may have been taking a political risk, but the men on the mission were the ones who risked their lives for their country.

"It (the mission) was about the ability of America to conduct operations of this complexity and that is foreign to his (Obama's) thinking because he is all-political," Zinke stated.

Zinke is concerned about the course of the nation under Obama and hopes conservatives will rally to get out the vote in November. To bring it some prime-time exposure for his group, called Special Operations for America, he has partnered with NASCAR to sponsor a sprint cup team. Zinke feels that many in the racing community share the group's values.

"This is the type of grassroots effort that is needed in order to elect leaders who will restore America to its founding principles," he says.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com