Recently named Coast Guard Engineer of the Year, Cmdr. Matthew Walker always knew he wanted to serve.
For more than two decades he’s done just that, through many tours of duty in several capacities – as a pilot, a professor, and as an engineer. His work in that last capacity took him to the Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, N.C., where he serves as Engineering Services Division Chief. When he’s not earning patents for developing repair tools, spearheading training efforts for dozens of engineers, and adapting maintenance plans to adjust for COVID-19 precautions, he’s serving as president of the Elizabeth City Satellite Chapter of MOAA’s First Flight Chapter.
Walker turned to MOAA initially to foster community at his duty station, he said. After identifying MOAA as a catalyst for connecting his community, he worked with leaders from chapters in the region and formed a satellite chapter that would serve his immediate location.
Lt. Cmdr. Albert DelGarbino, USCG (Ret), First Flight Chapter president, said it’s clear Walker has made a difference.
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“During the [2018-19] government shutdown, Commander Walker helped organize a food bank for Coast Guard personnel and their families […] who were not receiving pay,” DelGarbino said. “His efforts helped provide much-needed food and basic supplies for the Coast Guard community until the end of the shutdown.”
As president of the Elizabeth City Satellite Chapter, Walker highlights the importance of MOAA’s advocacy work to prospective members, as well as the usefulness of MOAA member resources for military life, career transitions, and through retirement.
A Varied Career
Upon receiving acceptance to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Walker, a Maryland native, was in disbelief that his dream of flying search-and-rescue missions was a real job, and that it was about to come to fruition.
Walker shifted his focus to engineering in the middle of his career, after choosing aeronautical engineering as a sub-specialty.
“I knew that at some point we all have to take the uniform off,” he said, “and I really wanted to stay in the realm of engineering. It was a nice sense that I did accomplish what I set out to, [that] people have recognized me now as not only a pilot but also as an engineer.”
Decades later, in response to being named Coast Guard Engineer of the Year, Walker said he was humbled but proud of the work that led to his servicewide recognition.
“Having seen everyone else that was on the list of those who were nominated, I was blown away that I had been selected,” he said.
Capt. Torrence Wilson, Walker’s commanding officer at the Aviation Logistics Center, recognizes the value in his skills.
“Commander Walker’s work as the Aviation Logistic Center’s Engineering Services Division (ESD) Chief has him involved in cutting edge technologies such as augmented reality and additive manufacturing, but it’s his role in managing our airworthiness program that really shows his dedication as an engineer,” Wilson told MOAA.
An award ceremony is set for Washington, D.C., on Feb. 18, per the award announcement, pending COVID-19 conditions.
To fellow servicemembers, especially those starting out, Walker offered the same bit of advice that he offered to the students he taught at his alma mater.
“There is no one set path in the military or in the Coast Guard,” he said. “If there is a job that you want or a career path that you want, whatever goal it is that you have with your service, don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t, and that there’s one way to get there, and this is it.
“Don’t ever assume that there’s only one way and that the answer will be ‘no,’ so you won’t even ask the question.”