Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

TOP STORY >>Airlifts saved lives in Iraq

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Lt. Col. Mark Czelusta, 463rd Operation Support Squadron commander, was presented the Bronze Star by Gen. Duncan McNabb Tues-day following the arrival of Little Rock Air Force Base’s first combat-ready C-130J.

Czelusta was awarded the medal for his exemplary performance commanding the only hub-and-spoke airlift squadron in Iraq while deployed from June 14 to Oct. 15, 2006.

The combined 129 active-duty and reserve personnel and 10 aircraft from five squadrons into an effective combat unit that delivered more than 19,000 passengers and 10,800 tons of cargo to numerous forward-operating bases.

The deliveries eliminated more than 1,675 convoy vehicles and saved countless lives from the treacherous roads of Iraq.
McNabb said Czelusta had done “a superb job” and “made the magic happen” with setting up the hub, helping get others out of harm’s way.

“I might be wearing this medal, but you are the ones who earned it,” Czelusta said to the members of the 222nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, which he commanded while deployed.

“Your drive, dedication to excellence and the incredible effort that you all put out over this deployment and your continuing to do that is awe-inspiring,” he said, adding he is “very honored and proud” to have served with the men and women of the 222nd.

LRAFB is his eighth assignment in 18 years of commissioned service.