Turning Struggles into Strengths

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Brittni Capozzi
  • 180th Fighter Wing

Every year the 180th Fighter Wing recognizes and awards outstanding Airmen for their exemplary leadership, job performance, individual accomplishments and service to their community. Airman of the Year, Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, First Sergeant of the Year and Company Grade Officer of the year. Throughout that year the winners of these awards showed how they embodied what it means to serve as an Airman.

The 2023 Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year award was presented to Master Sgt. Melissa Martin, the inspection coordinator within the 180FW headquarters, Inspector General's office. Martin went above and beyond in her duties as the inspection coordinator for the wing during a Large-Scale Readiness Exercise. She also prides herself on community engagement by coordinating The Stinger 5k, an on-base run hosted in honor of 9/11, that encourages the outside community to participate alongside service members.

Martin joined the 180FW on June 13, 2002. She was drawn to serve after the events of September 11, 2001. Martin has always been one to show that she is not afraid to take on a challenge. After taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, Martin decided to do something that not everyone else does. “When I took the ASVAB my weakest area was mechanical,” said Martin, “so I thought, why not try to go into a career field that would strengthen my weakest area.” That gave Martin her first career field at the 180FW in the engine shop as an F-16 engine mechanic. It was in the Maintenance Group where Martin learned the concept of high-intensity work and attention to detail that she has taken with her throughout her career. It was also where she met great mentors that helped pave the path to where she is now.

“My Maintenance Group commander saw the potential of where I could go and help the unit through Quality Assurance,” said Martin. The Maintenance Group commander at the time, saw an area where Martin could focus her skills and excel. After a year-long temporary tour with Quality Assurance, it was realized she was a perfect fit for that position and it soon became her full time career, and where she would meet another mentor. “I would say my greatest mentor was in Quality Assurance, his name was Chief Master Sgt. James Duty,” said Martin. Martin admired how Duty led by example, was always working hard and was accountable with regulations. “The mentorship I’ve received, that’s key,” said Martin. “From those that mentored me, it’s taught me the things that I want to do. You never know when you’re influencing someone else.”

Martin embodies that leadership style in a multitude of ways. One example is with The Stinger 5k. Running was a weak area for Martin that she saw as a challenge she needed to conquer. After struggling to pass her Physical Fitness Test (PT) for a couple years, she decided to do something about it. She started walking groups during lunch and had to teach herself how to love running. After facing her struggle head on, Martin is now passing her PT test with excellent scores and has learned to love running. So much so that she started The Stinger 5k to combine her love of running and love of the U.S. Air Force. Now, in its third year Martin hopes the 5k is a way to help Airmen who also may be struggling with their PT test. “There’s some of these Airmen that have never done a 5K before, they’ve only faced the mile and a half, so that is when you can take some of your greatest struggles and turn them into your strengths,” said Martin.

Throughout her years at 180FW, Martin has shown how she embodies what it truly means to be an Airman and to support not only her wing in her duties but also the Airmen around her. Advice she gives to Airmen who strive to be their best is, “never give up, your struggles can be your greatest strengths. Stay true to yourself, because your uniqueness brings diversity.” Martin actively leads by example and finds great joy in helping others, creating an environment that allows the 180FW to continuously be mission ready and serve the community of Northwest Ohio.

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