167th Airman soars to the top in West Virginia, Virginia Air National Guards

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sherree Grebenstein
  • 167th Airlift Wing
Master Sgt. David A. Martens, a loadmaster instructor with the 167th Airlift Wing, was named West Virginia Air National Guard's top Airman of the Year during a ceremony at the base in Martinsburg Saturday, March 1.

It's an honor the Inwood, W.Va., resident is very familiar with.

While assigned to the Virginia Air National Guard's 192nd Fighter Wing in 2007, Martens captured the same high air guard laurel. Named the 167th Airlift Wing's Outstanding Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for 2014, Martens said he was very humbled to receive the top Air National Guard honor in both West Virginia and Virginia.

"It's quite humbling and very unexpected," Martens said of winning the 2014 J. Kemp McLaughlin Trophy.

The award is given annually to the West Virginia Air National Guard's top Airman. Named after Brig. Gen. James Kemp McLaughlin who was the West Virginia Air National Guard's first commanding officer, the annual award epitomizes excellence. McLaughlin, who joined the Army Air Corps in 1941, was the lead B-17 pilot in a bombing raid over Schweinfurt, Germany during WWII. The raid is considered the largest aerial battle in history.

In February, the 130th Airlift Wing's base in Charleston, W.Va., was renamed in honor of McLaughlin. The 93-year-old former commander of the Mountain State's Air Guard was on hand for the dedication.

On being bestowed the two awards, Martens said it was an honor to be able to represent the 167th Senior NCOs and as West Virginia as a whole. In winning the McLaughlin Trophy, Martens competed against fellow Airmen not only at the 167th but also its sister wing in Charleston. He will next compete for the title of Airman of the Year at the national level. Asked how it feels to be honored as a top Airman twice in his military career, Martens said it was difficult to articulate.

"To be able to represent both units (167th & 130th) and to win it twice; you can't put it into words what it is," he said. "I feel like I am just doing my job." With 23 years of military service to draw on, the 42-year-old Airman said he tries to be there to help mentor other Airmen as well.

"Master Sgt. Dave Martens is the role model NCO for the Air National Guard," said Chief Master Sgt. Roland Shambaugh, describing in a video segment shown prior to the awards ceremony why he nominated the loadmaster from the wing's operations group.

"He practices the Air Force core values every day on and off the job," Shambaugh said. Adding: "Dave is our go-to team member who always goes above and beyond what's expected of him. And I can't think of a better mentor, wingman or role model." Martens' words of advice to today's young Airmen are to be true to themselves and work hard.

"Work hard, stay focused," he stressed. "Be the best Airman and NCO that you can be." While Martens was honored by the awards he pointed out he could have never achieved them alone. He expressed gratitude toward not only the section he works in but the wing as a whole.

"It's not just me," he said. "I'm just glad that I can represent (everyone) because I didn't do this by myself. It takes a group of people to do this." He credits his "loving wife, faith in God and just the work I put in" to daily missions as his best assets. Martens said being able to look himself in the mirror the next day and know he did the best he could the day prior is all he can ask of himself.

A member of the 167th Airlift Wing since 2008, Martens joined the 192nd Fighter Wing in 1995, where he served as a weapons loader. Currently an Active Guard Reserve Airman assigned to the 167th airlift squadron's operations group, Martens has served in a variety of positions at the wing to include loadmaster instructor, flight leader, awards and decorations NCO, loadmaster section training and scheduling NCO. With a 4.0 GPA, he is currently enrolled at the American Military University working towards a Master's degree in public health with a minor in emergency management.