07/17/16 9:00am

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A large flash of light filled the night sky south of East Moriches just after 8:30 p.m. on July 17, 1996.

In seconds, 212 passengers and 18 crew members aboard TWA Flight 800, an international flight from John F. Kennedy airport bound for Paris, were killed as the plane exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.  READ

11/08/12 11:00am
11/08/2012 11:00 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | Staff Sgt. Rudolph Lonk of Cutchogue training Afghan soldiers during his deployment.

When Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Rudolf Lonk returned to his Cutchogue home this summer after a seven-month deployment in Afghanistan, he couldn’t believe how self-reliant his family had become.

Tech. Sgt. Lonk was especially impressed by how independent his sons, Brandon, 20, and Taylor, 18, acted.

“I noticed they weren’t really relying on me,” he said. “I sat back and watched. I saw the biggest difference with my youngest son.”

While he was thousands of miles away from home serving in the Middle East with the 106th Rescue Wing’s Security Forces Squadron, Tech. Sgt. Lonk kept his family in his thoughts while working as head of Army Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley’s personal security detachment.

Tech. Sgt. Lonk was responsible for planning and leading daily missions while the general met with security officials and leaders in Kabul. His superiors believe he completed that job exceedingly well.

Last month, Tech Sgt. Lonk was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal. The achievement recognizes his role in protecting a U.S. general in a war zone.

He also trained four new drivers through a program he created that includes 230 hours of driving, security preparation and hand-to-hand combat training.

In addition, he verified and registered over 1,700 people before they gained access to certain facilities and took part in a large scale inventory effort that accounted for over 560 pieces of equipment and supplies.

“Under his leadership, my personal security detachment maintained a spotless record of zero security or safety incidents,”  Maj. Gen. Ashley said. “Sgt. Lonk demonstrated professionalism and leadership during a trying time in our Afghan campaign. Truly a job well done.”

Maj. Celistino Martinez, the 106th security forces squadron commander, described Maj. Gen. Ashley’s comments as a testament to Tech. Sgt. Lonk’s character.

“Our entire unit is proud of Rudy and his accomplishments,” Maj. Martinez said.

Tech. Sgt. Lonk, who was deployed in Afghanistan from January to July, said some of his efforts to help youths in the Middle East left a lasting impression.

After learning about a September suicide bombing that killed six children in Kabul, Tech. Sgt. Lonk strengthened his efforts to promote a local not-for-profit group called Skateistan.

“I knew some of those kids [who were] killed,” he said. “They would come up to me, speaking in English and trying to sell me stuff. I once asked a 14-year-old kid what his hobbies were. He said skateboarding.”

Tech. Sgt. Lonk said he likes Skateistan’s efforts because the group “takes kids off the streets and takes them to skateboarding parks.”

Now that he is readjusting to suburban life, Tech. Sgt. Lonk said he still works the midnight shift training soldiers at his base in Westhampton, where he met his wife, Jackie, over 22 years ago.

Ms. Lonk said she’s happy about her husband’s achievements and respects his career.

“I’m very proud of him,” she said. “We all are.”

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09/18/12 2:18pm
09/18/2012 2:18 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A U.S. pararescue team competes in a rodeo on the Peconic Bay Tuesday.

The threat of high winds and rain didn’t stop the Air National Guard from hosting its rescue rodeo in the Peconic Bay Tuesday morning.

Six U.S. pararescue teams, known as PJs, and one all-volunteer Sea Rescue group from South Africa (Cape Town, Plattenberg and Port Elizabeth) showed off their skills in a race of five-person teams on inflatable Zodiac boats.

“[The race] requires a little bit of thoughtful navigation, breath holding and other skills we use in rescues and other missions,” said Master Sergeant Jules Roy, a PJ with the Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach. The 106th is hosting the rodeo, so its members are not participating. It is held every two years and the 106th won the event in Kentucky four years ago.

The race, which began at 8:30 a.m., went from Treasure Cove Marina in Riverhead to Greenport and back. It’s part of a week-long reunion of pararescue technicians.

They headed out on the Peconic River to the County 105 bridge propelled only by paddle, since it’s a no-wake zone. Once there, a designated PJ had to climb a 30-foot rope to the top of the bridge and record his time. After that, the teams headed to Greenport, powered by a 30-horsepower motor.

Once in Greenport, the teams competed in precision parachuting over Great Peconic Bay. The five-person Zodiac teams then had to dive without scuba gear into the harbor to retrieve a keg full of water, representing the illegal liquor that flowed into the village during Prohibition, and unlock a cable to free cans of fuel needed to return to Riverhead.

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See more photos on riverheadnewsreview.com

09/18/12 8:00am

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Divers worked in Greenport Harbor by Claudio’s Restaurant Monday setting up for Tuesday’s unusual Air National Guard ‘rodeo.’

Seven teams of Air National Guard rescue squad members will show off their considerable skills Tuesday during an unusual “rodeo” involving an unusual race of inflatable Zodiac boats from Riverhead to Greenport and back.

That competition, and others including precision parachuting over Great Peconic Bay, are part of a week-long reunion of famed pararescue technicians, known also as PJ’s. The five-person Zodiac teams will head out to Greenport starting at 9 a.m., where they must dive without scuba geat into the harbor to retrieve a keg full of water, representing the illegal liquor that flowed into the village during Prohibition, and unlock a cable to free cans of fuel needed to return to Riverhead.

The race “requires a little bit of thoughtful navigation, breath holding and other skills we use in rescues and other missions,” said Master Sergeant Jules Roy, a PJ with the 106th.

The race starts at 9 a.m., with one boat leaving every half hour. The round trip is expected to take roughly two hours.

Check back later in the day for photos of the event.