Lt. Col. Michael Marra was awarded two Bronze stars earlier this week.

Lt. Col. Michael Marra was awarded two Bronze stars earlier this week. ()

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — An Air Force officer who spearheaded efforts to build an airfield in Kyrgyzstan in 2001 and another in northern Iraq 15 months later has been awarded two Bronze stars.

Lt. Col. Michael Marra, commander of the 86th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron, 86th Contingency Response Group at Ramstein Air Base, received the prestigious medals during a ceremony earlier this week.

He credits the airmen and officers he worked with for helping set up the bases in the austere conditions.

“Nobody does something like this on their own,” he said Wednesday.

Marra, who has 20 years’ service in the Air Force, arrived in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Dec. 18, 2001. According to his award citation, Marra was “hand-picked” to create the first airlift squadron in the former Soviet republic.

Due to his “outstanding leadership” and “boundless energy,” the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing was able to fly its first combat missions in just 70 days, the citation reads.

Marra managed air operations and helped integrate fighter, cargo and refueling missions from the United States and eight coalition nations.

A little more than a year later, he deployed to northern Iraq in March 2003 and established the first American airlift base in Iraq. He helped build up Bashur and Irbil airfields, which provided a northern front for coalition forces.

His 66-person squadron helped support the delivery of 23 million pounds of cargo and 4,500 troops.

“The exemplary leadership, personal endeavor, and devotion to duty displayed by Colonel Marra in this responsible position reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force,” the award citation states.

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