Passion for teaching drives military training instructor
By Senior Master Sgt. Trish Freeland, United States Air Forces Central, Baghdad
/ Published October 07, 2008
AL TAJI AIR BASE, Iraq -- When Staff Sgt. Matthew Coltrin graduated from Air Force basic military training six years ago, he always knew he'd be back one day "pushing" his own flight.
"I love discipline. I love drill. I love the extreme passion for being the best you can possibly be," said the Lake Charles, La. Native. "I knew it would be tough to come back but I always knew I'd end up back at Lackland."
Little did he know that from there he'd go to Iraq and help Iraqi BMT instructors push their flights. Now that's exactly what he's doing as an air advisor to Iraqi BMT instructors deployed to the 370th Expeditionary Training Squadron at Al Taji Air Base, Iraq.
Two years into his MTI tour, Coltrin is making history and friends as he advises across cultural barriers.
"We interact with our Iraqi instructor teams here the same we would young MTIs back at Lackland," he said. "We advise them of the best way to operate and then let them do things their way. Then if things don't go right, we help them make fixes."
Coltrin has taken advising the Iraqis full throttle by learning not only the Queen's drill to which Iraqi Airmen are accustomed, but also Arabic drill commands.
"I messed up a few times while calling commands, but they covered for me," said the A.M. Barbe High School graduate.
Teaching is Coltrin's passion. One could even say it's a family affair. His mother Tama Ray, is an assistant principal at J.I. Watson Middle School in Iowa, La. His sister is a teacher and his wife Renee also teaches.
"For me, teaching and being able to work with people is about being able to mentor and influence someone's life," he said. "It's about making them better than they were before you met them. That's what I get out of this job more than anything."
Before becoming a military training instructor, Coltrin spent four years as an F-15 avionics technician. But since earning his MTI hat, he has excelled, earning special recognition as a Blue Rope, an honor bestowed on only the top ten percent of the MTI corps.
"When you put that Blue Rope on your hat you are the walking example of the MTI. You have to be on your best behavior at all times," Coltrin said. "You've got to lead by example and you become more focused on the betterment of the Corps itself, not just the trainees."
That prestigious Blue Rope could help Coltrin reach his highest goal--to one day become the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.
"I always set my standards extremely high but any way the AF wants to use me would be outstanding. I just really love the Air Force and I plan on staying in a long time.