Kraus concludes military career with more than four decades of service

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Phil Speck
  • 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office
Maj. Gen. Mark R. Kraus, a former commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing and one-time assistant adjutant general for Air, was officially retired during a ceremony here June 12, concluding 43 years of service to the active-duty Air Force and Kentucky Air National Guard.

Kraus, who most recently served as Air National Guard assistant to the commander of United States Air Forces Central Command, received an Air Force Distinguished Service Medal during the ceremony. The decoration is awarded to members of the United States Air Force who have distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility.

Brig. Gen. Stephen R. Hogan, adjutant general of the Kentucky National Guard, called Kraus his mentor during the ceremony, and said he leaves a legacy of excellence behind.

"The reason he is my mentor is that he always stood for the right thing," Hogan told the audience of friends, family and co-workers gathered in the Base Annex. "It's easy to identify the right thing, more difficult to do it. I learned that from General Kraus.

"The best thing he's going to leave with us here today is the legacy of his excellence. In 15 or 20 years from now, everyone is this room will reflect back on something they have done right and say they learned to do that from General Mark Kraus."

As assistant to the commander of United States Air Forces Central Command, Kraus advised on all matters relating to the Air National Guard, including the development of contingency plans and the conduct of air operations in a 20-nation area of responsibility covering Central and Southwest Asia. He maintained frequent and regular liaison with the commander, vice commander and staff at Ninth Air Force/United States Air Forces Central Command Headquarters. Additionally, Kraus had the command lead for engagement with Middle East partner nations on matters pertaining to Integrated Air and Missile Defense of the Gulf region.

The general enlisted in the Kentucky Air National Guard in 1973 and completed six years of service prior to his commissioning as an officer through the Air National Guard Academy of Military Science in 1979.

He then served as a weapons systems officer aboard the RF-4C Phantom II reconnaissance aircraft as a member of Kentucky's 165th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. In 1992, Kraus cross-trained to become a C-130 Hercules navigator after the Kentucky Air National Guard's mission changed to airlift.

Kraus served many roles in the 165th Airlift Squadron, including flight commander, operations officer and, finally, the commander. His next post was commander of Kentucky's 123rd Operations Group, followed by a deployment to Southwest Asia where Kraus served as commander of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

Kraus assumed command of the 123rd Airlift Wing upon his return to Kentucky in 2004 and held the post until 2008. During his tenure as wing commander, the unit was awarded its 12th Air Force Outstanding Unit Award and its third Curtis N. "Rusty" Metcalf trophy from the National Guard Bureau as the country's top airlift or air refueling unit.

In October 2008, Kraus earned his first star and became the assistant adjutant general for Air - Kentucky National Guard. The following year, he was dual-hated as the assistant to the director of the Air National Guard, and in 2013 he assumed his role at U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

When given the stage at the end of the retirement ceremony, Kraus spoke of his gratitude to the audience.

"Today might be for me, but make no mistake: It's about you," Kraus said. "You and literally thousands of the other Guardsmen -- folks that came before you had a hand in shaping my career and molding me as a person. Without grand designs to do so, I have spent my entire life in this organization. I grew up here and I experienced everything that growing up comes with and being a part of this guard family.

"I have had the great privilege to work for and beside some of the brightest, most dedicated, hardest working folks America has to offer in her defense. I have had the advantage to learn and serve from the best, and many of those folks completed outstanding careers of service in their own right.

"The truth, though, is that in the history of this organization, if anyone has been allowed a more fruitful or fulfilling career than me, I don't know who it would be. There's a debt of thanks that I can never repay. But somehow at the end of today, I hope that the conclusion would be that your investment was not wasted. That I honored the opportunities given to me and I represented Kentucky well, and I earned the mantle of trust you placed on me.

"You know sometimes you just have to acknowledge when others are responsible for your best work. And for 43 years, you and many others were responsible for my best work."