The decision seemed pretty easy for Mike Mattison.
After graduating high school, he felt college wasn’t in the cards for him at the time or working in a factory.
That left the military and again, the decision was simple.
“I thought the Air Force would prepare me for my future best,” the Baldwin native said. “Besides, I didn’t want to be in the Infantry.”
Mattison started his training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and was then sent to Frankfurt, Germany where he spent two years working transportation logistics for an airport there.
During that time, Sept. 11, 2001, occurred which changed his life in more ways than one.
“It was an unguarded base at first, then tanks were parked at the gate,” he explained. “We started working 12 hours shifts, seven days a week. Instead of getting three planes a week, we would get hundreds, and most would be cargo aircrafts.
“Security was heightened to the nth degree. We would be seeing German police with Uzis everywhere.”
During those two years, Mattison’s sense of responsibility increased or he referred to it as ‘extreme ownership.’
“People on the front lines were relying on us to do our job,” he explained, adding more than once he helped load planes with troops stationed to go to Afghanistan next. “If we screwed up, someone could lose their lives.
“It was hard work, but it was super rewarding.”
Not every plane he helped load and unload was cargo related. Unloading and loading caskets from one plane to the other was a process that required special care all the way down to how he looked.
“We had to have our uniformed ironed and looking sharp,” he said, noting they’re usually given advanced warning when those situations occurred.
Mattison was then transferred to a base in Korea where he spent a year, did three months back at the German base and wrapped up his military duty at Fort Bragg from 2004-2005.
At 23 then, Mattison was ready for college from which he earned his degree. He has worked for the last 13 years at Baldwin-Woodville Insurance Services and is the father of two young daughters.
“Being in the military opened new doors to me that I didn’t have,” he said. “It taught me confidence, pride, respect, self-esteem, you name it.”
JASON SCHULTE | BALDWIN BULLETIN