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Record-setting Air National Guard flight engineer plans to retire

Master Sgt. Curtis Stark, 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron superintendent, conducts a pre-flight inspection in the cockpit of an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar Nov. 14. Stark has deployed 17 times with JSTARS aircraft in support of contingency operations and has accumulated more than 4,000 combat flying hours. After nearly 30 years of service he plans to retire from the Air Force in March 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman/Released

Master Sgt. Curtis Stark, 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron superintendent, conducts a pre-flight inspection in the cockpit of an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar Nov. 14. Stark has deployed 17 times with JSTARS aircraft in support of contingency operations and has accumulated more than 4,000 combat flying hours. After nearly 30 years of service he plans to retire from the Air Force in March 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman/Released

Master Sgt. Curtis Stark, 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron superintendent, conducts a pre-flight inspection in the cockpit of an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar Nov. 14. Stark has deployed 17 times with JSTARS aircraft in support of contingency operations and has accumulated more than 4,000 combat flying hours. After nearly 30 years of service he plans to retire from the Air Force in March 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman/Released

Master Sgt. Curtis Stark, 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron superintendent, conducts a pre-flight inspection in the cockpit of an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar Nov. 14. Stark has deployed 17 times with JSTARS aircraft in support of contingency operations and has accumulated more than 4,000 combat flying hours. After nearly 30 years of service he plans to retire from the Air Force in March 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman/Released

Master Sgt. Curtis Stark, 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron superintendent, inspects an emergency oxygen mask during a pre-flight inspection in the cockpit of an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar Nov. 14. Stark has deployed 17 times with JSTARS aircraft in support of contingency operations and has accumulated more than 4,000 combat flying hours. After nearly 30 years of service he plans to retire from the Air Force in March 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman/Released)

Master Sgt. Curtis Stark, 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron superintendent, inspects an emergency oxygen mask during a pre-flight inspection in the cockpit of an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar Nov. 14. Stark has deployed 17 times with JSTARS aircraft in support of contingency operations and has accumulated more than 4,000 combat flying hours. After nearly 30 years of service he plans to retire from the Air Force in March 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman/Released)

Master Sgt. Curtis Stark, 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron superintendent, conducts a pre-flight inspection on the exterior of an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar Nov. 14. Stark has deployed 17 times with JSTARS aircraft in support of contingency operations and has accumulated more than 4,000 combat flying hours. After nearly 30 years of service he plans to retire from the Air Force in March 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman/Released)

Master Sgt. Curtis Stark, 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron superintendent, conducts a pre-flight inspection on the exterior of an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar Nov. 14. Stark has deployed 17 times with JSTARS aircraft in support of contingency operations and has accumulated more than 4,000 combat flying hours. After nearly 30 years of service he plans to retire from the Air Force in March 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman/Released)

Master Sgt. Curtis Stark, 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron superintendent, conducts a pre-flight inspection on the exterior of an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar Nov. 14. Stark has deployed 17 times with JSTARS aircraft in support of contingency operations and has accumulated more than 4,000 combat flying hours. After nearly 30 years of service he plans to retire from the Air Force in March 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman/Released)

Master Sgt. Curtis Stark, 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron superintendent, conducts a pre-flight inspection on the exterior of an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar Nov. 14. Stark has deployed 17 times with JSTARS aircraft in support of contingency operations and has accumulated more than 4,000 combat flying hours. After nearly 30 years of service he plans to retire from the Air Force in March 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman/Released)

Master Sgt. Curtis Stark, 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron superintendent, conducts a pre-flight inspection on the exterior of an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar Nov. 14. Stark has deployed 17 times with JSTARS aircraft in support of contingency operations and has accumulated more than 4,000 combat flying hours. After nearly 30 years of service he plans to retire from the Air Force in March 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman/Released)

Master Sgt. Curtis Stark, 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron superintendent, conducts a pre-flight inspection on the exterior of an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar Nov. 14. Stark has deployed 17 times with JSTARS aircraft in support of contingency operations and has accumulated more than 4,000 combat flying hours. After nearly 30 years of service he plans to retire from the Air Force in March 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman/Released)

Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar -- Master Sgt. Curtis Stark, 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron superintendent, has flown more than 400 combat missions in the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft.

Stark has accumulated more than 4,000 combat flying hours in nearly three decades of service, holding the record for most combat sorties flown and most combat flying hours as an Air Force flight engineer on JSTARS aircraft.

Joint STARS is an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to provide theater ground and air commanders with ground surveillance to support attack operations and targeting that contributes to the delay, disruption and destruction of enemy forces.

"We go and look for the bad guys and we track potential enemy targets," Stark said. "We have a very important mission, if we miss a flight, if we cancel for any reason; we have to make it up. We're needed all over the world."

As a flight engineer, it's Stark's responsibility to check every system on the aircraft from electrical, to oxygen to hydraulics.

Stark is currently serving on his 17th deployment at AUAB with the JSTARS community, and plans to retire in 2016.

"Master Sgt. Stark is a model of the Citizen-Soldier for today's Air National Guard.  His volunteerism has yielded an unprecedented level of assured access to the active component forces around the globe," said Col. Mark Weber, 116th Air Control Wing commander. "Curtis provides the USAF a level of experience and professional expertise which is hard to replicate."

Both Weber and Brig. Gen. Jesse Simmons Jr., commander of the Georgia Air National Guard, consider Stark a hero.

"I have spent years deployed overseas supporting the warfighter and only have 1,200 combat/combat support hours." said Simmons. "Georgia takes great pride in one of our own and his accomplishments."

Read the full story at www.afcent.af.mil