WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) --      Mark Kjorness and his wife Kristin were both promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army on July 1.  The promotions came after their yearly EOR (Officer Evaluation Report), but it is rare for a husband and wife to earn promotions at the same time.  Mark and Kristin?s promotion are also remarkable because they received them a year earlier than scheduled.  Only five to ten percent are promoted early.

    ?Part of it is luck?, said Mark modestly.  ?You need the tough jobs at the right time.?

    ?We pretty much met ourselves coming and going,? said Kristin when referring to the first years of their marriage.  Military intelligence is demanding.  For a few years Kristin would be awakened at night by a phone call because she was needed at her office.

    The son of Steve and Cathy Kjorness, Mark graduated from WWG in 1986.  He attended basketball camp at St. John?s University after his sophomore year in high school and enjoyed his time on campus.  Mark remembered that experience when he began looking for a college to attend.  Steve, who  was WWG superintendent at the time, suggested that Mark consider enrolling in the ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) program to help finance his education.  His decision was finalized when he received a four-year Army ROTC scholarship.

    Mark graduated from St. John?s in 1990 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army.  His first assignment was at Ft. Huachuca in the desert of Arizona.  There he received training in military intelligence, ?finding out what our enemies are doing,? as Mark put it.

    Unknown to Mark, Kristin was being trained in  intelligence at Ft. Huachuca at the same time.  She had graduated from West Point Military Academy where she was the first female to be a captain.  It wasn?t until they were stationed in Germany, however, that they met.  They were married in North Dakota in 1993.

    Mark and Kristin learned early that their responsibilities to the army would have top priority in their relationship.  Ten days after their honeymoon, Kristin was deployed to Saudi Arabia where her intelligence work involved the Patriot missiles used during Desert Storm.  Since they are in intelligence, Mark and Kristin look at the situation in Iraq from a different perspective than the average American.

    Mark reported that the Iraqi army is taking ownership of battle space.  We work well with them.  He also mentioned that the focus is on police training, which represents a lot of challenges.  Infiltration from the different ethnic groups is just one challenge.

    He went on to say, ?You don?t rebuild a government overnight.  Change is difficult.?

    Americans often have the mindset that change can be immediate.

    Mark?s assessment is positive.  ?I?m just amazed how great the young soldiers are.  They?re performing just great,? he said. ?The morale is high in the units.  Everyone has a focused mission.?

    Mark is currently on R & R from his deployment to Iraq.  Since January he has been stationed in Alfaw Palace, one of Saddam?s many homes.  Alfaw, with its 60 rooms and 29 bathrooms, is located on a 155-acre compound in the center of Baghdad.  Mark will live and work in the palace until December or January, but he has little time to take in the beauty that surrounds him.

    ?We?re more or less chained to our computers from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., ? said Mark.  He?s a part of the Multinational Corps of Iraq, which commands all the forces there.  Mark works at three computers, reading and summarizing reports.  One or two times a week he prepares briefings for the generals.

    One of Mark?s best days in Baghdad was the day he boarded a helicopter and saw a bit of Baghdad.  His wife, Kristin, appreciated the fact that Mark spends most of his time at the Alfaw palace because he is quite safe there.

    Despite the challenges of Mark and Kristin?s demanding jobs, they enjoy living in Germany.  They have been able to travel through much of Europe, and the opportunities and experiences their daughters have are priceless.  For example, three-year-old Brenna thinks she owns Paris.

    Quality education is one concern the Kjornesses don?t have.  ?The DODS (Department of Defense Schools) is one of the best school systems in the world.  They have fantastic teachers with lots of experience?, said Kristin.

    Saturday evening friends and family gathered at the Westbrook VFW for a Promotion Party to honor and congratulate Mark and Kristin for the promotions to Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army.