ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Oklahoma –
“When you talk about Women’s History Month, you get to look at the path that’s been paved for us as women,” said Master Sgt. Jennifer Martin, the superintendent of the 97th Air Mobility Wing Staff Agency at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. “But it also gives us a chance to look at each other and ask ourselves what we’re doing to set the path for the future to set change in motion for those who will come after us.”
Looking back to the past is important to Martin, both in trying to make a better Air Force and a better world to live in. While conducting this interview in her office, a few things stood out regarding her journey in the Air Force, to include a large collection of challenge coins and awards from a long Air Force career. However, they are all overshadowed by the attention demanded from of a glass, wooden box in the corner.
Inside that box lies a dark blue hat, broad-brimmed with a high crown, pinched symmetrically at the four corners and centered with a silver flash with a United States insignia. This hat signifies one of the best of the Air Force who have dedicated their time turning civilians into Airmen.
“My most memorable moments in the Air Force come from being a Military Training Instructor,” Martin said. “To be able to have the impact that MTIs have across the Air Force and in the country is an unbelievable feeling. If you haven’t done it, you’ll never understand it.”
Martin took pride in seeing the trainees under her becoming Airmen at the end of their training.
“Every time I heard the beating of the drum or the parade music, my heart would just get so excited,” she said. “Excitement for the Airmen, excitement for their future and to see the transition from untrained civilian to a dedicated Airman is simply one of the greatest things ever to me.”
Martin was able to stand out in her first few months as an MTI, honoring the path paved for her. She did not let her gender define her effectiveness – she was simply an Airman doing the best job she could do.
“When I became an MTI, I was the only female in my squadron for six months,” Martin said. “Near the end of that six months, I received my first dorm ahead of some of my male peers who had been there a little longer. It was my way of saying yes; ‘I’m female, yes, I’m here to stay and you can’t take that away from me.’”
Martin joined the Air Force 23 years ago and enlisted as a medical administration specialist. She was also recently selected for the rank of Senior Master Sergeant.
“They try to stick you into a major command at senior master sergeant,” said Martin. “I asked to not do that. I want to spend my last assignment and my last few years helping Airmen.”
When confronted with difficulties, many people look at the source of their challenges. Martin never did that. Instead, she set her mind to the goals of the Air Force and stayed committed to success.
“When people talk about adversity because they’re female, I don’t remember ever facing it,” Martin said. “That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, but I don’t listen to adversity. When I set my mind to something, I’m going to get it done. No one can stop me and I won’t listen when I’m told no.”