Cutchogue airman awarded high honors

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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