Professional Achievement Award
COL. MARK E. MITCHELL, ENG '87
Falls Church, Va.
Even as a student in grade school, Col. Mark Mitchell knew he was destined to become a soldier. “I relished the opportunity for adventure, camaraderie and gallantry,” he says. In his service to the country, he has found them all. And in his service to the country, he has excelled.
Since the Vietnam War, the Distinguished Service Cross — the nation’s second-highest military decoration for a member of the United States Army — has been awarded only 22 times. Its recipients include Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, Theodore Roosevelt — and Mark, who is assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he is a senior military assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict.
“In all things, I strive to live up to the Ignatian ideal,” he says.
Mark’s military career has been split between foreign fronts and the home front. In his initial assignment, he was an infantry officer with the 1st Brigade, 24th Infantry Division at Ft. Stewart, Ga., then quickly ascended the ranks, eventually serving in operations Desert Shield, Desert Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and commanding Special Forces at every level from detachment through group. Mark also commanded a special operations task force of nearly 2,600 people in Iraq, including Navy SEALs and Air Force Special Tactics units, in addition to Army Green Berets.
“The most enjoyable aspect of my vocation,” he says, “is the opportunity to lead by example, accomplish the mission and help others reach their goals. I believe we need leaders with strong moral foundations to defend our country in a manner worthy of our values and aspirations.”
And lead he does. In addition to the Distinguished Service Cross, Mark holds the Defense Superior Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters) and Defense Meritorious Service Medal, among others, and his badges include the Combat Infantryman Badge (2nd Award), Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Military Free-Fall Parachutist Badge, Special Forces Tab and Ranger Tab.
His time at Marquette was integral in forming the resolve needed of a man with many responsibilities. “As I’ve traveled far from home and taken on greater responsibilities than I’d ever imagined, I’ve been able to conquer my fears and weakness through a living faith,” he says.