Phil Leventis is feeling the heat of battle, but this time the pressure is not from constituents or political foes. The state senator from South Carolina flies bombing raids over Iraq in an F-16.

The politician-turned-pilot is one of many reservists and National Guard members who left civilian jobs to join U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf war.And though the 45-year-old lieutenant colonel doesn't like to be away from his constituents, he feels he belongs in the Saudi desert.

"I think that most people in my community understand that right now for our country and for me personally this is a priority," said the soft-spoken Leventis, a Democrat who has served 11 years in the state Senate from a district that includes Sumter, his hometown.

Most of his South Carolina Air National Guard F-16 squadron was sent to the gulf in December. Leventis, who served five years in the Air Force before joining the Air National Guard in 1974, came on Jan. 13.

For the time being he's not trying to keep up with politics back home. "The best thing I can do for my family is focus on what I'm doing here," he said.