Roadside bomb kills PRT commander, airman

By Bruce Rolfsen

Staff writer

Senior Airman Ashton L. M. Goodman was 21 years old and in the Air Force for less than three years; Lt. Col. Mark E. Stratton came up through the ranks as a navigator and left his Pentagon desk job for a year in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, both died when a roadside bomb exploded as they drove in Afghanistan near Bagram Airfield.

A third person also died in the attack, but as of Wednesday afternoon had not been identified by the Pentagon.

Goodman, a vehicle operator dispatcher, was assigned to the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team and deployed from the 43rd Logistics Readiness Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. She grew up in Indianapolis.

Stratton, 39, commanded the PRT. He was deployed from the Joint Staff’s plans and program office at the Pentagon, an Air Force spokesman said.

Provincial reconstruction teams specialize in helping Afghan communities with development projects such as building roads and schools, expanding medical services and providing electrical power. Panjshir Province is located in the mountains north of Bagram Airfield.

A Pope spokesman said Goodman enlisted in July 2006 and arrived at the base in October 2006. She had already been on one deployment prior to joining the Panjshir team in June 2008 for a yearlong stay in Afghanistan.

“We will all feel sorrow as a result of her death, but should celebrate in how she chose to live her life, her commitment and dedication,” said Col. John McDonald, 43rd Airlift Wing commander.

Before starting the Pentagon staff post, Stratton flew as a senior navigator onboard RC-135 Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft. On the Joint Staff, he served as an executive assistant for the deputy director for politico-military affairs-Asia.

Stratton’s Air Force career began in 1992 after receiving his commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps and graduating from Texas A&M University in 1991.

He was raised in Foley, Ala.

Stratton’s survivors include a wife and three children in the Washington area.

“Mark was just an all around wonderful person,” Stratton’s step-father, Buddy York, told WKRG-TV. “The three things that were more important to him were God, his family and the military.”

Patriotism, belief in nation core values of Stratton

The Associated Press

Mark E. Stratton II was a superb but humble leader, said his friend, Lt. Col. Clark Risner. “He wouldn’t have wanted any media spotlight on him,” Risner said. “He would want it on his team.”

“It sounds cliché but Mark was the most patriotic person I’ve ever met, just a model airman in every way,” he said. “He put the airmen that he was supervising or leading first, every step of the way.”

Stratton, 39, of Houston died May 27 near Bagram Air Field of wounds from an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to Pope Air Force Base, N.C.

“He was a very, very God-and-country kind of guy, very into the Air Force and democracy and the United States,” said his brother, Frankie Little. “People just couldn’t help but like him.”

After graduating from high school in 1987, Stratton went on to graduate from Texas A&M University. He had previously served on the staff at U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

Stratton was commander of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team. The group was building a road in the Panjshir Valley in north central Afghanistan.

He is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and her three children.