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Mullaney concludes 24-year career in Air Guard, USAF

Col. Neil Mullaney (right), outgoing director of the Air Staff at Joint Forces Headquarters—Kentucky, receives a Meritorious Service Medal, third Oak Leaf Cluster, from Brig. Gen. Mark Kraus, Kentucky’s assistant adjutant general for Air, during a retirement ceremony Feb. 2, 2013, at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. Mullaney participated in four conflicts and commanded multiple units during his 24-year career. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Vicky Spesard, Kentucky Air National Guard)

Col. Neil Mullaney (right), outgoing director of the Air Staff at Joint Forces Headquarters—Kentucky, receives a Meritorious Service Medal, third Oak Leaf Cluster, from Brig. Gen. Mark Kraus, Kentucky’s assistant adjutant general for Air, during a retirement ceremony Feb. 2, 2013, at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. Mullaney participated in four conflicts and commanded multiple units during his 24-year career. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Vicky Spesard, Kentucky Air National Guard)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Col. Neil Mullaney was honorably retired from the Armed Forces during a ceremony held in his honor Feb. 2 at the 123rd Airlift Wing, closing out a military career spanning more than 24 years of dedicated service to the Air Force and Kentucky Air National Guard.

Hundreds of friends, family and colleagues gathered at the Base Annex to pay tribute to Mullaney, the outgoing director of Air Staff at Joint Forces Headquarters--Kentucky.

"Col. Mullaney has enjoyed a more diverse career than any officer that I know of," said Brig. Gen. Mark Kraus, Kentucky's assistant adjutant general for Air. "His accomplishments are an impressive list. He is passionate about what he does, with a relentless quest for new challenges. He didn't just pass through from position to position. You could count on him to punch above his weight class toward mission accomplishment and serve as an inspiration to those around him.

"For those he led," Kraus continued, "they would follow him anywhere."

After his remarks, Kraus presented Mullaney with a Meritorious Service Medal (third Oak Leaf Cluster), a Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal and the official certificate of retirement.

A 1988 graduate of the University of Louisville Air Force ROTC program and a veteran of four different conflicts, Mullaney began his active-duty career at Hurlburt Field, Fla., where he was assigned to the 1st Special Operations Wing. He soon deployed to Panama in support of Operations Just Cause and Promote Liberty, planning and executing special operations missions against Manuel Noriega's Panamanian Defense Forces. Mullaney later deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where he was part of a special operations task force that tracked and targeted Scud Missile sites in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

In 1994, Mullaney left active duty and began his Reserve career with the Kentucky Air National Guard, serving as chief of Intelligence Operations. Three years later, he was selected as detachment commander of the 205th Combat Communications Squadron, beginning a 16-year span in which he would command five different units. In 2000, Mullaney was selected to be the first commander of the newly formed 41st Civil Support Team, a unique unit designed to support civil authorities at the scene of incidents involving weapons of mass destruction.

In 2003, Mullaney was named commander of the 123rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and he deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, supervising maintenance of 24 C-130 aircraft while maintaining a 99 percent mission effectiveness rate.

Mullaney was next selected as commander of the 123rd Maintenance Group in 2006, leading subject matter expert teams to Ethiopia, Kuwait and Yemen. Five years later, he deployed to Afghanistan as the first Air National Guard officer to lead an Agribusiness Development Team. During the deployment, the group of Kentucky Army and Air National Guardsmen conducted more than 250 missions in support of government stabilization.

"There are three positions you should always be in during your career," Mullaney said, addressing the crowd. "You can have someone give you an opportunity, be there in support of that opportunity, or provide that opportunity. I think it is best to be providing that opportunity. It is so much more rewarding than anything you will receive on your own. My prayer is that I can look back on my career and see that I have helped someone else.

"There has always been someone throughout my career to give me that opportunity," he continued. "At every stage and every unit, there have always been a group of people who wouldn't let me fail -- those people who just made things happen: a long list of chiefs and people whose names don't get mentioned. I am deeply touched by everyone who has shown up here today. You are a huge part of my life, and I want to thank you for everything."