NEWS | March 9, 2022

From Private First Class to Brigadier General, a career built on grit and determination

By Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Breig Missouri National Guard Public Affairs

Eventually, she came out from under the rig covered in dirt, to the dismay of the AMC general. When he asked what she was doing, she replied, "This Soldier is showing me how he does his job." Martin found learning about her Soldiers and their jobs was one of the most fun parts about being a leader, and a “…willingness to get dirty to do it” was the best way to determine their needs.

The mentorship of officers and enlisted Soldiers was important to Martin. She valued what junior Soldiers could teach her, and this is a lesson she credits her first platoon sergeant, Sgt. First Class Steven Peoples, a Vietnam veteran. Peoples taught her how to be a Soldier as a new officer and, regardless of her position, to seek to do what her Soldiers did. “You don’t send someone else out to check your vehicle. You and your first sergeant go out and check your vehicle together…you crawl underneath it." Throughout her career, that was her philosophy. Martin says Peoples embodied that high standard she always strived for herself throughout her career, even after her promotion to Brigadier General.

Martin gave equal value to mentorship throughout her career progression. She believes it's essential to "Seek your mentors. Do not wait for them to come to you. You need to build that relationship.” Martin recommends what she calls the 'Rule of Five,' which suggests you should select your mentors, two above your level, two below it, and a peer you wish to emulate. "So, pick the best, and don’t be afraid to learn from someone junior to you because there are a lot of smart young leaders that I have just been amazed by."
 
Training, readiness, and preparedness were staples of the 32 years of service Brig. Gen. Martin experienced. She served in twelve state emergencies and three federal missions during a storied and accomplished military career. Such an active history might be expected from someone that started as an enlisted Soldier and, step by step rose to the rank of Brigadier General.
 
Martin is no stranger to blazing trails. Before she was the first MOARNG female to reach the rank of Brigadier General, she was the first to command a Military Police Battalion. When she took the helm of the 110th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, she became the first female to command a Modification Table of Organizational Equipment or MTOE Brigade in the MOARNG. However, the challenges she faced were not exclusive to the military.

In her civilian career, she was the eighteenth woman to join the Kansas City Fire Department (KCFD) when she got started in 1995. Martin joked of being a woman in a department of over 900 firefighters, “It was like being a unicorn.” Taking on careers in two professions that males historically dominate certainly came with challenges. Still, hard work, assertiveness, and outstanding mentorship played significant roles in her career progression.
 
Hard work would be necessary for her untraditional career choices. “I was on the Kansas City Fire Department for 25 years…there’s nothing they could do to me that was worse than basic training; where we slept, where we ate, the miserable conditions in the rain. Army training experiences gave me a wonderful foundation for going into the fire service.” Martin retired from KCFD in 2020, and she believes that the two careers she chose were well suited. She said, "The city was very supportive of their members in the National Guard. It complimented my military service." Both careers were physically and mentally challenging but surmountable with hard work and perseverance, for which, Martin remarks, “I got my work ethic from my dad.”
 
Martin is not blind to her mentors' impact in shaping her Army career. "It's not that women couldn't do the job; women weren't given opportunities to do the job.” She considers herself lucky to have had leaders that believed in her abilities and gave her opportunities. I was blessed to have North Charles, Glen Hagler, Greg Mason, Bill Ward and General (Steve) Danner who believed in everything that I could do and gave me the opportunities.” She goes on to say, “I’ve worked with almost every branch in the Missouri Army National Guard: Aviation, Engineers, Field Artillery, Infantry, MPs, Logistics and Medical. It was because of those mentors who gave me the opportunity and gave me the foundation that I had this success.”

Martin says, “I guarantee I ticked some people off along the way.” However, she's willing to accept that, as long as her decisions were made for the right reasons. “That will happen when you fight for what you believe is right”, said Martin. In fact, Martin says she didn't join the military to become a general officer. “I enjoyed what I was doing. I felt like if I made the rank of Major, that would be great, and if I got to 20 years, then what an awesome career! I just really enjoyed it and worked hard at what I was doing.”

Throughout the ups and downs of service and time away from home, Martin had the love and support of an extensive, strong group of family and friends. She explains their support by offering, “Your family has to understand that service is a calling. It is a part of you; it is who you are. It's about being a part of something greater than yourself." She is excited to spend her newly acquired free time with her family, “being with the littles...getting to watch the littles grow up." Those littles are her 12 great-nieces and nephews, nine of which are under five. So, as she put it, “there are plenty to hold.” Distinctly indicative of how her next chapter is beginning, she said, “Instead of a bag of officer coins, I now carry a bag of hot wheels.”

Upon reflection, Brig. Gen. Martin wouldn’t change a thing about her military career. “I wouldn’t have done it any different. The experiences we go through together, you will always remember. The worst days together, you will always remember those and laugh about them later,” said Martin. She has spent much time reflecting as she closes out her Missouri Army National Guard career. "I think the military gave me more than I gave, to be honest. It gave me structure; it gave me a foundation; it gave me friends for life. I hope people will not be worried that I'm on the golf course and won't call them back…I want them to reach out to me for mentorship and guidance. I still enjoy those conversations and look forward to them."
 
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