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Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121


Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121

Green Knights

MCAS Iwakuni, Yamaguchi, Japan

Commanding Officer
LtCol Richard M. Rusnok, Jr.

LtCol Richard M. Rusnok, Jr., a native of Pittston, PA, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in May 1998 with a Bachelor of Science degree in History and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.  Following graduation, he attended The George Washington University and was awarded a Master of Arts degree in History in January 1999.

In July 1999, he completed The Basic School, Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA followed by flight training with the 8th Flying Training Squadron (8 FTS) at Vance AFB, Enid, OK [T-37 Tweet]; Training Squadron 9 (VT-9) at NAS Meridian, MS [T-2C Buckeye]; and VT-21 at NAS Kingsville, TX [T-45A Goshawk].  He was promoted to First Lieutenant in May 2000 and received his Naval Aviator wings in June 2001.  In August 2001, 1stLt Rusnok reported to Marine Attack Training Squadron 203 (VMAT-203) at MCAS Cherry Point, NC for training in the AV-8B Harrier II.

Upon completion of Harrier Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) training in April 2002, 1stLt Rusnok reported to Marine Attack Squadron 223 (VMA-223) also at MCAS Cherry Point.  In June 2002, he was promoted to Captain.  While assigned to VMA-223, Capt Rusnok functioned as the Administrative Officer, Schedules Officer, Aviation Safety Officer (ASO), Pilot Training Officer (PTO), and Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI).  In January 2003, he deployed with VMA-223(-) aboard USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) and USS Bataan (LHD-5) for Operations SOUTHERN WATCH (OSW) and IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF).


Upon return from deployment, Capt Rusnok attended the ASO course and WTI Course 1-05.  Functioning as the squadron WTI, he deployed in August 2005 to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq for OIF 04-06 and 05-07.  In July 2006, Capt Rusnok reported to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) at MCAS Yuma, AZ as an AV-8B Instructor Pilot (IP).


While at MAWTS-1, Capt Rusnok served as the Low Altitude Tactics Instructor (LATI) standardization officer and Night Systems Low Altitude Tactics Instructor (NSLATI) standardization officer.  As the Fixed Wing Offensive Air Support Specialist in the Aviation Development, Tactics & Evaluation (ADT&E) Department, Capt Rusnok worked extensively on testing and fielding new weapon capabilities including the F-35 Lightning II, the LASER Joint Direct Attack Munition (LJDAM), the Dual Mode LASER-Guided Bomb (DMLGB), and the BLU-126B Low Collateral Damage Bomb (LCDB).  He was promoted to Major in July 2008.


Maj Rusnok was selected for the United States Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) Class 136 in September 2008 and reported to NAS Patuxent River, MD in December 2008.  He graduated from USNTPS in December 2009.


He reported to the F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF) also at NAS Patuxent River in January 2010 as the F-35 Operational Test Liaison Pilot assigned to Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 22 (VMX-22).  At the Patuxent River ITF, Maj Rusnok served as the link between Developmental Test (DT) and Operational Test (OT) activities in the F-35 program to ensure a smooth transition to Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT&E) activities.  He also served as the project officer and pilot for F-35B initial ship trials aboard USS Wasp (LHD-1).


In December 2012, Maj Rusnok reported to Edwards AFB, CA to continue work as the Operational Test Liaison Pilot embedded with the USAF 461st Flight Test Squadron (461 FLTS) while also serving as the VMX-22 / VMX-1 Detachment Officer-in-Charge.  He conducted both flight sciences and mission systems testing on all three variants of the F-35 in an integrated test environment.  He oversaw the safe-for-flight designation of VMX-22 Detachment Edwards and the growth of the detachment from 15 to 170 Marines.  While at Edwards AFB, he also led the planning effort for Operational Test Period 1 (OT-1) aboard USS Wasp in May 2015; served as the Detachment Officer-in-Charge for the Royal International Air Tattoo / Farnborough International Airshow in June-July 2016; and conceived and planned the OT Assist to Developmental Test Period 3 (DT-3) / Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration in October-November 2016 aboard USS America (LHA-6).  He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in June 2015.


LtCol Rusnok reported to Marine Aircraft Group 12 (MAG-12) at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan in January 2017 and assumed command of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) in March 2017.


LtCol Rusnok’s personal decorations include the Air Medal with six Strike/Flight Awards, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with two Gold Stars, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device and Gold Star, and two Sea Service Deployment ribbons.  Additionally, he is the recipient of the 2005 Commanding General II Marine Expeditionary Force Leadership Award; the USNTPS Sydney Sherby Leadership Award; the Marine Corps Aviation Association’s John Glenn Squadron 2011 Marine Corps Test Pilot of the Year; and the 2011 National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) Marine Corps Military Tester of the Year.


LtCol Rusnok has accumulated over 2,300 flight hours in over 20 different military aircraft including the AV-8B, F/A-18A-F, F-16, Mirage 2000D, and the F-35A/B/C.