JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD. – Master Sgt. Mark J. Jurakovich, an explosive ordnance disposal technician from the 148th Fighter Wing, Minnesota Air National Guard, was selected as the Air National Guard’s 2019 Outstanding Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.
From navigating through rocket-ridden, hostile terrain to supporting local law enforcement during stateside operations, EOD techs work to protect service members and citizens by detecting, disarming, and disposing of unexploded ordnance.
“EOD is a high-stakes job that can mean the difference between life and death,” said Jurakovich. “Performing your job with excellence is especially important here because if you make a mistake then you not only put yourself in danger but others as well.”
Jurakovich joined EOD in 2006 and has since established a reputation for being an expert in his craft. During a deployment to Kuwait in 2018, Jurakovich demonstrated high skills in EOD ops when he successfully destroyed 34 pounds of damaged aircraft flares, disposed of 94 pieces of ordnance, and cleared 36 square kilometers of the Udairi Range.
“EOD is a difficult job, but it’s rewarding when the mission gets done, people are safe, and everyone gets to come back home,” said Jurakovich.
As a senior noncommissioned officer, Jurakovich devoted much of his time to leading EOD units toward mission success. While deployed, he conducted numerous joint-force training such as eight hours of improvised explosive ordnance briefs, 48 counter-IED scenarios, and one high-explosive exercise. The emphasis Jurakovich placed on training with EOD units from other military branches resulted in a significant impact on tech’s total force readiness to integrate and accommodate any mission, anywhere.
“Jurakovich was my supervisor while we were deployed and I’ve seen firsthand his dedication to this job,” said Master Sgt. Mark Hilleren, a fellow 148th FW EOD tech. “He’s not only excellent at his job, but he’s also a great leader who makes sure every individual on his team is trained and taken care of.”
Equipping EOD Airmen with the proper tools to succeed is another priority for Jurakovich. While serving as the EOD functional area manager, he led a $2.5-million bomb suit modernization that resulted in a drastic increase in safety for 17 EOD units across the ANG.
“Safety is important because we work in such hazardous conditions,” said Jurakovich. “I try to do everything in my power to make sure my teams are good to go.”
For his commitment to serving with excellence as a leader, Jurakovich earned the title as the ANG’s Outstanding SNCO of the Year for 2019.
“Jurakovich was my boss, but he’s also become one of my closest friends,” said Hilleren. “He worked so hard to get this award and I’m very proud of him for accomplishing so much.”
According to Jurakovich, this award embodies more than just his own achievements.
“I look at this award as a team award,” said Jurakovich. “It’s a reflection of every single person I have worked with—both teammates and leadership.”
Future career plans for Jurakovich include continuing to serve with excellence as a leader in the ANG EOD career field.