By JC Delgadillo
San Francisco District
CALIFORNIA — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators. Perhaps no one knows that better than Oregon Army National Guard Soldier Maj. Shaun P. Martin, winner of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers Federal Engineer of the Year Award (Military). Martin is currently on assignment in California, serving the San Francisco District.
As a little boy growing up in a family of chicken farmers in rural Oregon, Martin was astounded by Star Trek, the original television series which ran from 1966-1969. As much as his parents wanted to send their intelligent, creative son to college, their simply was no money available for tuition. So Martin's father suggested his son enlist in the Army.
Martin had planned to serve a four-year stint, but four years gave way to 14 as an infantry paratrooper. His fascination with the futurist gadgets Gene Rodenberry had conjured never dissipated. From the Enterprise's transporter console which could pinpoint the exact location of crewmembers to the handheld communicators which allowed crew to converse over distances long and short, to the holodeck which created computer-simulated environments complete with tastes, smells, sights and sounds, Star Trek's imagined tools have influenced modern technology.
"Just think about the things that were common in Star Trek. Many of those things didn't exist in the sixties, but they do now (GPS, mobile phones, virtual reality to name a few.) That's what engineers do. We think about things that haven't been created yet, and we figure out how to make them," said the self-proclaimed geek.
After 30 years of military service, deployments to war zones, dozens of awards including jump wings with a mustard stain signifying a combat jump, nobody would dare call this leader of war fighters a geek. Yet his five degrees including a doctorate, two masters, and numerous credentials and certifications might tempt you.
Considering the sheer volume of advanced education and highly-acclaimed work Martin has accomplished, it may strike some as surprising that it was not until the bright-eyed, youthful forty-nine year old was in his mid thirties that he graduated from college. Martin transitioned out of active duty Army into the Oregon Army National Guard and enrolled in Clackamas County Community College.
"Clackamas has a great two year pre-engineering program so after I finished there, I applied and got accepted into Oregon State," said the husband and father of five. Upon graduating with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering as well as completing officer candidate school, Martin was commissioned as a second lieutenant and also accepted a full-time position with the Oregon Army National Guard. Along the way he earned a master's degree in engineering and another master in military arts and science. After serving as a task force engineer during Hurricane Katrina response and recovery, Martin became fascinated with reducing the nation's vulnerability to disaster so he pursued a doctorate in public policy and administration with an emphasis in homeland security.
No stranger to personal sacrifice, Martin continues to work hard to build awareness and excitement about the power of engineering by speaking at local schools and through his affiliation with the Society of American Military Engineers where he most recently served as the San Francisco chapter president, said Maj. David Kaulfers, P.E., assistant to the chief of Programs and Project Management Division for the San Francisco District. Kaulfers nominated Martin for the Engineer of the Year award which is sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Nation's premier public engineering agency.
"Time and again, Major Martin has provided leadership, accountability, problem-solving and responsiveness," said Kaulfers.
Martin provided management and oversight on numerous projects, among the most challenging was The San Ramon Valley Recycled Water Program, said Kaulfers. This multi-phased project whose purpose was to facilitate the increased use of recycled water for such things as irrigating landscaping instead of using potable water, had run into some frustrating delays. Through his savvy problem-solving skills and uncanny ability to marshal cooperation, Martin got the job done to the satisfaction of both the Corps of Engineers and most importantly the residents the project served.
During his two-year stint with the San Francisco District, Martin earned a project management professional certification as well as a Level III facilities engineer one. He has also worked on armed forces reserve center projects which seek to provide sufficient space and up-to-date facilities and equipment to support the activities of citizen-soldiers. Martin currently serves as the chief of the Hydrographic Surveying Section and along with his team, is responsible for collecting, processing, and mapping hydrographic survey data for federally authorized civil and military navigation channels throughout the San Francisco District's area of responsibility. The survey data is used to monitor current channel conditions and as a decision-making tool for channel maintenance operations, channel deepening contracts, planning studies, environmental monitoring, locating of obstructions, debris removal, and more.
With so many accomplishments, it's easy to see why Martin was selected as the USACE's Military Engineer of the Year, but it is having made his parents proud and serving as an excellent role model to his children, that makes Martin smile with joy. One of his sons is a sergeant in the Army and one of his daughters is an engineer.
"If you are creative, if you are a dreamer, engineering is for you," said Martin. "If you want to enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you've helped create things that will make life better for people, things that will outlive live you, then engineering is for you."
In the summer, Martin will begin work as a facilities engineer in Oregon with the state's National Guard. He will continue speaking in schools to motivate teens to pursue science and engineering in high school and college.