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Team Offutt remembers fallen warrior

Senior Airman Ashton Goodman and Lt. Col. Mark E. Stratton atop "Lion Hill" behind their Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan May 24, 2009. Colonel Stratton served as the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team's commander while Airman Goodman spent the majority of her deployment as the Panjshir PRT's primary tactical driver and usually served as the commander's driver. Both Airmen lost their lives May 26 from wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Stacie N. Shafran)

Senior Airman Ashton Goodman and Lt. Col. Mark E. Stratton atop "Lion Hill" behind their Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan May 24. Colonel Stratton served as the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team's commander while Airman Goodman spent the majority of her deployment as the Panjshir PRT's primary tactical driver and usually served as the commander's driver. Both Airmen lost their lives May 26 from wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Stacie N. Shafran)

Lt. Col. Mark Stratton talks to an Afghan villager as part of his duties with the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan March 3. Colonel Stratton was one of two Airmen killed in action in Afghanistan May 26. Colonel Stratton was the Panjshir PRT commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr.)

Lt. Col. Mark Stratton talks to an Afghan villager as part of his duties with the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan March 3. Colonel Stratton was one of two Airmen killed in action in Afghanistan May 26. Colonel Stratton was the Panjshir PRT commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr.)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Lieutenant Colonel Mark E. Stratton, former 55th Wing aviator and US Strategic Command staff officer, was killed when a suicide car bomber detonated a vehicle alongside thea US convoy north of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan on May 26. In Afghanistan, he was serving as commander of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team, and was leading major reconstruction efforts to improve the quality of life of the Afghan people. He was 39.

Army Master Sgt. Blue Rowe, Senior Airman Ashton Goodman and Afghan national Abdul Samad were also killed in the attack.

Lieutenant Colonel Stratton was commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1991 from Texas A&M University. He held a variety of positions within the 55th WG from 1996 to 2002, culminating as executive officer to the wing commander. A senior navigator, Instructor, and evaluator on RC-135S COBRA BALL aircraft, he amassed more than 1,400 flying hours during his career as an aviator, including 26 combat hours. Following duty as 55th Wing executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stratton served as aide-de-camp to the deputy commander of USSTRATCOM during its major post-9/11 mission transition.

Prior to his assisgnment to Afghanistan, Lieutenant Colonel Stratton served in the Pentagon as politico-military planner, Taiwan desk officer and senior staff assitant in the Joint Staff Strategic Plans and Policy directorate.

Lieutenant Colonel Stratton's spirit was evident in the last email he sent to his mother, as he described his job leading reconstruction efforts - helping people, rebuilding roads and schools - as the best thing he'd ever done.

Lieutenant Colonel Stratton was honored in a memorial service and laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on June 9th, with full military honors. In attendance were Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Senator Jeff Sessions and Congressman Jo Bonner from Alabama, Congressman Rob Wittman of Virginia and Congressman Ted Poe of Texas. Senior military officials included Chief of Staff of the Air Force Norton Schwartz, former 55th Wing Commanders Maj. Gen. Greg Power, Brigadier Gen. Jonathan George and Brigadier Gen. James Jones, former 45th Reconnaissance Squadron Commander and Defense Intelligence Senior Leader Robert T. "Bo" Marlin and former 45th RS Commander Col. James "Gap" Gapinski. Later that day, Congressman Poe honored Lieutenant Colonel Stratton's service to the nation in remarks on the House floor. At the conclusion of his remarks, Congressman Poe said "His name and life will be remembered by Aggies and other grateful Americans and by his Air Force buddies. But no doubt the people of Afghanistan will also remember this man from America, the Air Force colonel who built their schools, their water wells and their villages. And maybe those villagers will return once more to that mountaintop and pay tribute to this American hero, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stratton."

Lieutenant Colonel Stratton is survived by his wife, Jennifer, their three children, and his mother, stepfather and brother.

Lieutenant Colonel Stratton is remembered by friends and colleagues as a dedicated and inspirational officer - a natural leader with the perfect blend of positive personality, enthusiasm, and mission focus. Those who knew him well stated that his outlook on life and his profession influenced all who knew him. He was described as the type of person that changes the lives of others; a person impossible to forget.

Among members of the 55th WG and USSTRATCOM, his loss is deeply felt. While saddened, his colleagues are comforted knowing he died doing what he loved - serving his nation, and improving the lives of others.