With a strong handshake and a look in your eye, he introduces himself, “Hi I’m Mark.” The Journal met retired Colonel Mark Duffield for the first time. He was scraping old paint and prepping his office upstairs behind the auditorium at Red River High.
Duffield is preparing to be the Senior Aerospace Science Instructor. There is lots to do to spruce up his workspace and the JROTC classrooms. On the day we were there, Senior Master Sargent Lawrence Bunton and several students who came by to help were there. Bunton said the volunteers this summer had been Skye Davis, Chloe Pickett, Alexandria Brown, Eric Hanson, Korie Williamson and Ethan Morgan.
Col. Duffield retired from the USAF after a 27 year career. He flew the A-10 Warthog sometimes known as tank killers. You’ve heard them buzz over the skies of Red River for many years. Duffield was a Squadron Commander and then Chief of Stan-Eval and Chief of Safety and then Chief of Staff to the Commander 8thAir Force all at Barksdale Air Force Base just north of us.
Also during his career, Duffield was deployed to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. He also worked in the Middle East for United Arab Emirates as a contractor.
He retired in 2012. And this is his first JROTC position.
His first task at Red River is to improve the facilities. “A little paint and other touches creates a nice appearance and hopefully bring in more students,” Col Duffield said. He added, “My feet are barely on the ground. We will find more places to go and more things for kids to do this year. There will be more military related outside events. Opportunities are all around.”
We asked his goal for the local JROTC program. Col. Duffield said, “To make kids better Americans. The military is smaller since the end of the Cold War. I want to raise interest in a military career.”
Col. Duffield added, “For most of our students this will be the only exposure to the military they get in their lives. I want it to be something they can take forward as better citizens. They can use the leadership traits we teach anywhere they go.”