Air Force Lt. Col. Mark S. Bennett
Air Force Lt. Col. Mark S. Bennett has returned to the United States after being deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the military operations involving members of the U.S. armed forces and coalition forces participating in efforts to free and secure Iraq.
Mission objectives focus on force protection, peacekeeping, stabilization, security and counter-insurgency operations as the Iraqi transitional governing bodies assume full sovereign powers to govern the peoples of Iraq.
Air Force Lt. Col. Mark S. Bennett
Staff Sgt. Timothy Michalak
Members from all branches of the U.S. military, multinational forces, and civilian federal employees are also assisting in rebuilding Iraq's economic and governmental infrastructure, and training and preparing Iraqi military and security forces to assume full authority and responsibility in defending and preserving Iraq's sovereignty and independence as a democracy.
In Iraq, Bennett served as squadron commander of the 52nd Expeditionary Flying Training Squadron and was decorated with the Bronze Star Medal for exceptionally meritorious achievement while serving as combat aviation advisor and instructor pilot for the Coalition Air Force Training Team, Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq, Kirkuk, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His leadership was critical during the U.S. mission of rebuilding the Iraqi Air Force. He guided the activation of the first-ever expeditionary flying training squadron and was instrumental in establishing a pilot training capability for Iraq. His numerous achievements contributed to the U.S. mission of developing and sustaining Iraqi security forces. The lieutenant colonel has served in the military for 17 years.
The senior pilot was decorated six Air Medals for distinguished meritorious achievement while participating in sustained aerial flight as Cessna 172S and Cessna 208B evaluator pilot and instructor pilot while assigned to the 52nd Expeditionary Flying Training Squadron, Coalition Air Force Transition Team, Multinational Security Command-Iraq, Kirkuk. He directly contributed to national security objectives by flying combat training missions supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and the reconstruction of the Iraqi Air Force as a combat aviation advisor. His airmanship and courage were instrumental to the safe completion of 146 combat training missions. He flew combat instructional missions with Iraqi Air Force first student pilot and instructor pilot candidates. The majority of these missions were flown in the face of enemy threats, including small arms fire, anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles in an aircraft with no defensive capabilities.
The lieutenant colonel also has been decorated the Aerial Achievement Medal, and a Meritorious Unit Award for the squadron he commanded, a unit of the U.S. Central Command Air Forces.
He will be assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Operations Directorate, National Military Command Center at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Bennett is the son of Ronald and Bonnie Bennett of Niceville, Fla. His wife, Roxane, is the daughter of Royce and Debbie Deuink of Lehigh, Fla. She graduated from Cassadaga Valley High School in 1989.
In 1986, the colonel graduated from Fredonia High School and in 1990 received a bachelor's degree from the University of Rochester.
Staff Sgt. Timothy Michalak
Staff Sgt. Timothy Michalak, son of David and Carol Michalak of Dunkirk, was part of the 239th class to complete the Army Special Forces qualification course at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C., graduating in the top 10 percent of his class. He is the grandson of Helen and the late Francis Michalak of Dunkirk and the late Stanley and Anne Dudek.
The course consists of six phases that took one year to complete. At completion, Michalak received the coveted Green Beret and Special Forces Tab along with a new military occupation specialty of Special Forces Communication Sergeant, able to speak and interpret Indonesian. The Army's special forces is a strategic, multi-purpose force capable of rapid response to various contingencies around the world. Called "Green Berets," these highly skilled soldiers are trained in unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, direct action, special reconnaissance, combating terrorism, information operations and counter-proliferation. They operate in urban, jungle, desert, mountain, maritime and arctic environments and are sometimes called on to survive for months at a time behind enemy lines.
Their missions aren't just related to combat. Special Forces soldiers are diplomats and teachers who are trained in foreign languages and called on to teach military skills to people around the world. The Green Berets also support global humanitarian relief efforts.
Michalak has also had two tours in Iraq with the 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kan., where he received the valorous unit medal while serving in Ramadi, Iraq, and with 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky., as an artilleryman. Michalak also attended jump school in Fort Benning, Ga., where he received his wings.
Michalak is a graduate of Dunkirk High School, as is his wife, Beth, daughter of Robert and Lois Tworek of Dunkirk. The couple is in the process of moving to Okinawa, Japan, where he will be stationed with the 1st Special Forces group (Abn.) for the next three years.
Marine Corps Pfc. Tommy Roque and Marine Corps
Pvt. Gregory J. Bak
Marine Corps Pfc. Tommy G. Roque, son of Tommy Roque of Dunkirk, and Marine Corps Pvt. Gregory J. Bak, son of Cheryl A. and James S. Bak of Dunkirk, recently completed 12 weeks of basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, S.C., designed to challenge new Marine recruits both physically and mentally.
Roque, Bak and fellow recruits began their training at 5 a.m. by running three miles and performing calisthenics. In addition to the physical conditioning program, they spent numerous hours in classroom and field assignments, which included learning first aid, uniform regulations, combat water survival, marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat and assorted weapons training. They performed close order drill and operated as a small infantry unit during field training.
Roque, Bak and other recruits also received instruction on the Marine Corps' core values - honor, courage and commitment, and what the core values mean in guiding personal and professional conduct.
The recruits ended the training phase with The Crucible, a 54-hour team evolution culminating in an emotional ceremony in which recruits are presented the Marine Corps Emblem and addressed as "Marines" for the first time in their careers.