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A tale of two Russells
Russell brothers
Mark Russell, left, and John H. Russell share a happy moment at Mark's 2003 graduation from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
    When John D. Russell's Statesboro job with Brooks sent him to Europe in the late 1960s for an extended period, he had no idea that he would return home to the U.S. with a German bride, Baerbel Russell.
    Thus the stage was set for the Russell home to be at least a dual-language family. And a home with two graduates of the Air Force Academy.
    Their first son, John H. Russell, was born in 1970 and between the ages of 2 and 3, he became fascinated with the space program.  
    “John was allowed to select his first book and he selected an action-figure book entitled, 'Astronauts on the Moon,'” John D. Russell said. “He still has that book to this day.”
    When John H. was 5, Brooks sent the Russell family to Holland for a five-year period and that was the beginning of a new learning experience for young John.
    He quickly learned Dutch and expanded his dream to become a pilot. He flew many times either alone or with his mother from Holland to his grandmother's home in Germany or to England to visit friends also associated with Brooks in England.
    Upon arrival back to Statesboro at age 10, John was enrolled in Bulloch Academy in order to catch up on his English language skills.  
“When John H.  was 11, one of our neighborhood boys invited him to attend a Boy Scout meeting with him,” his father said. “I went with him and six years later, he earned his Eagle Scout badge.”
    John H. played football at Bulloch Academy and he played for one year in the 10th grade at Statesboro High School. He then became focused on academics and physical fitness such as running cross country and track.  After high school graduation, he was then ready for entry into the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
     “Since the purchase of 'Astronauts on the Moon,' our son John has had an interest in space flight and space aspiration,” John D. Russell said. “As a teenager he built and launched a lot of model planes and rockets. He went to space camp in Huntsville, Ala., two different times, where he learned a lot about the space program. Even while he was in high school, his teacher was greatly impressed by his aviation knowledge. When giving lectures and demonstrating space rockets that he had built, he would wear his official blue NASA flight outfit he had gotten previously at space camp.”
    When John H. went to the Air Force Academy, he hoped to become a pilot, but his eyesight wasn't good enough. So, he pursued a bachelor's degree in Aeronautical Engineering with a minor in German from the academy. He earned the opportunity to attend Goethe Institute in Heidelberg, Germany, for several weeks prior to graduation to complete a minor in German. He later earned a Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Oklahoma.  
    John H. Russell is now a major in the Air Force and he has been involved with the space program for more than a dozen years.  
    One of his first assignments was at Tinker AFB as an aeronautical engineer working on refinements, redesign and testing of B-1B bombers.    
    From there he went to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University near Daytona Beach as an ROTC officer and then for four years to the Los Angeles USAF Base Command. That is where he got into USAF Space Command Procurement where he reviewed contracts for equipment destined for the USAF Space program.  
    After a few years at the USAF Space Command Headquarters in Colorado Springs, he reported for duty at Patrick Air Force Base near Cape Canaveral.
    “At Patrick AFB (I'm) director of operations for the Spacelift Range Group,” John H. Russell said. “I am responsible for the leadership and management of an over 500-person program to modernize and maintain the $3 billion Eastern Range which is comprised of a multitude of assets that assure America's access to space as well as ensure public safety during launch.”
    Russell left for Iraq last weekend on a six-month tour where he'll work with the USAF to ensure top performance of contractors hired by the US government.  His return is scheduled for February 2010.
    John Russell is 11 years older than his brother Marion Mark Russell.  According to his dad, “Mark always looked up to his big brother, and his brother John had a lot of love and respect for his little brother. They were close-knit buddies which also resulted in a built-in baby sitter within the family.”  
    “By age 4, Mark was already interested in athletics and especially soccer. He was and continues to be very competitive — especially in sports.”
    Like his brother, Mark joined the Boy Scouts and also earned Eagle Scout status. John D. Russell, was there with them as a Scout leader and recently retired after 25 years of service with the Boy Scouts.    
    Each year when the Russell family travelled to the USAF Academy for Parent's Day, Mark became more and more impressed with the academy.  Mark was 1999 Statesboro High School Class Valedictorian and although he received a scholarship to attend Georgia Tech, he chose to pursue his appointment to attend the Air Force Academy.
    After graduating from the Academy in 2003 as a civil engineer, and as a member of the U.S. Air Force, Mark Russell was stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. During this time he also served for nine months in Iraq.  After his return to Langley, he earned the opportunity to earn a master's degree in civil engineering with the agreement he would teach Civil Engineering at the Academy for three years upon graduation. He just completed his first year.
    Mark Russell has strong plans for his future.
     “My goal is to move on in pursuit of a Doctorate Degree in Civil Engineering upon completion of my present assignment here at the Academy.”
    John D. Russell is very proud of his sons.
    “Both boys learned independence at an early age which was greatly enhanced by international travel at a time when parents didn't have to worry about current-day issues.”

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