Martin reflects on 13 years as Connecticut's TAG

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Jen Pierce
  • 103rd Public Affairs

Maj. Gen. Thaddeus Martin leaned back in a chair behind his desk as he reminisced about his reason for joining the Air Force. Conflict with his father is what motivated him to enlist. After having given college a try for a couple of years, Martin decided it wasn’t for him and wanted to enlist against his father’s wishes.

“I was going to prove he was absolutely wrong, and I was going to show him I knew better…I can go ahead and do this Air Force thing. A lot of that was I don’t need college to be successful,” Martin said.  

Martin enlisted in the Air Force in 1977 and thus began his noteworthy, 41-year long military career. Martin’s first duty assignment was a crew chief for the T-37 jet trainer at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, where he was working with brand new second lieutenants around his age.

“Most of them didn’t have a lick of common sense,” Martin said, “I’ve got about two years left to finish college and thought that could be me and I’m here running around with two stripes. Something’s not right.”

Impelled by his desire to become a better leader, Martin went back to school. Taking classes part-time at night, he completed his Bachelor’s degree in 18 months. Martin then earned his commission in Officer Training School and his first commissioned duty assignment was working as an aircraft maintenance officer at the now closed Pease Air Force Base, New Hampshire. While stationed there, he eventually became the branch chief for the FB-111 aircraft and moved on to a variety of other assignments, including Chief of the Reconnaissance Systems Branch under Headquarters Strategic Air Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska and assistant professor of aerospace studies at the University of Utah in Salk Lake City.

After serving active duty for 12 years, Martin returned to Connecticut and began his Connecticut National Guard career at Bradley Air National Guard Base, where he held some of his most memorable and challenging positions.

One of his first most memorable positions in the Connecticut Air National Guard, he said, was working as the commander for the 103rd Logistics Group, a position he held from 1996 until 2000.

“Back in the day, that (Logistics Readiness Group) ended up being the largest group on base…it had maintenance and all of LRS, it had contracting and transportation, so all of motor pool and (traffic management),” Martin said. “There were a bunch of areas that I had familiarity with, but nothing on the scale of anything I had seen with my limited time in supply and my long-time service in maintenance.”

Following his time as the Logistics Group commander, Martin was assigned as the 103rd Airlift Wing’s Vice Wing Commander from 2000 until 2003. This position, for him, was unprecedented.

“It was a challenge being a non-rated guy within the dynamic that it took to work with a rated boss,” said Martin. “I was able to use his (wing commander’s) authority to be able to continue to run things while he had the unique ability to handle his business with Ops.”

In the Air Force, a rated position is flying-related, such as a Pilot, Combat Systems Officer, Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Pilot, or an Air Battle Manager. Typically, units with a flying mission, such as the 103rd Airlift Wing, are commanded by rated officers. Martin, however, took that challenge in stride.

Martin’s most notable position to date, however, has been working as Connecticut’s TAG (The Adjutant General).

“Obviously the position that was the most intimidating and rewarding at the same time is this one, because a blue guy never looked at this as being something that they would be able to do any time in their career,” Martin said. “You were lucky if you made it to O-6 back in the day, and the thought of even getting to be the assistant Adjutant General was beyond the pale for a guy that’s not rated. I got the vice commander opportunity and I got the assistant adjutant general opportunity and then this opportunity opened up and here I am 13 years later.”

One of the first monumental obstacles Martin had to overcome as Connecticut’s TAG was facing the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission that recommended taking away Connecticut’s A-10 close air support aircraft and turning Bradley Air National Guard Base into an, “enclave.”

“An enclave, at that time, was a unit without a flying mission that had other periphery type missions that would sustain beyond ops and maintenance,” said Martin. “The other thing in BRAC for Connecticut was that they were going to build a $16.5 million alert facility, likely in the middle of the existing ramp, that would be used to do the air superiority alert mission that was at that time stationed at Cape Cod with the F-15s, and the alert mission would be moved to Connecticut. But we wouldn’t own the airplanes and we wouldn’t own the people, which makes absolutely no sense.”

Martin began his fight against the BRAC plan to keep a flying mission at Bradley because he knew becoming an enclave would be detrimental to the future of the Connecticut National Guard.

“There was not a single state in the union that didn’t have at least a single flying mission,” said Martin, “so it was bad for Connecticut because it weakened our position. We also were not going to be able to keep the great Airmen that we had, to include the aviators and the maintainers. Those people were at risk. So it’s a real easy sell to anyone here in the state to make the case that we really needed to have a continuing, sustainable long term flying mission.”

Martin won his fight and Connecticut’s Air National Guard began flying C-21 transport aircraft as a bridge mission with the hope to obtain another airframe for the state in the future. In 2012, Martin began his work to establish the C-130H cargo plane as the Connecticut Air National Guard’s new aircraft. His efforts paid off and the 103rd Airlift Wing received eight C-130Hs in September 2013 to continue Connecticut’s flying mission.

Martin’s legacy included leading the Guard through several major storms that struck Connecticut. Two of the most prolific were Winter Storm Alfred in October 2011 and Hurricane Sandy a year later in October 2012.

Winter Storm Alfred was a nor’easter that resulted in 10 confirmed deaths and 830,000 power outages across the state.

“We got up to 25 inches of heavy sticky snow on trees that still had leaves; people lost power for up to 10 days,” Martin said. “Trees that were down posed issues with regard to power over an extended period of time. It posed issues with public safety because there were certain environments in which people couldn’t move into or out of neighborhoods, people couldn’t get food, so there was a much broader response over a longer period of time.”

When Hurricane Sandy hit the state, it was the second most costly hurricane on record in the United States at that time, wrecking total devastation along the coast.

"The Connecticut Guard responded in an exceptional way,” Martin said. “Through every state response, the staff does a great job. The units, with clear guidance, do an awesome job. I’ve got some units that get out and start looking for business because they’re that close to the local community, and the local community knows to call those units first.”

“You look at how far the Air Guard has come, during BRAC, a big part of why the Air Guard got saved was in the final report. It had to do with those Airmen. Those are 1,200 people that are available in a crisis to be able to do whatever it is we need to do in the state whether it’s with power generation, route clearing or security; or the one year we were up on roofs in Tolland. The Air Guard had a hundred Airmen on the roof of Tolland High School with snow blowers and shovels clearing the snow off because they had let it accumulate over a period of time and the roof was headed toward collapse.”

As Maj. Gen. Martin’s time as TAG drew to a close, he gave thought to some of the lessons he learned leading the Connecticut National Guard for the last 13 years.

“You have to stay engaged,” Martin said. “Give your people the guidance and then trust that they’re going to do what you’ve asked them to do. Make sure that you trust the people to get the job done, but you follow up to make sure they’re on the right track. One, you don’t want them wasting time, and two, you don’t want them ultimately getting to a place that you had no desire ending up. You also have to stay engaged nationally, you can’t be a hermit back here in the state. You need to know who your counterparts are, the people who can make things happen for you down in DC because if you don’t, you’re not doing your job.

I can say that after 13 years, there have been no two days in nearly 5,000 days that are exactly alike,” Martin said. “Some days are better than others, unfortunately some days are worse than others, but being a TAG is a unique opportunity that few people get. It’s an organization of people who are probably some of the most passionate in the entire Department of Defense, the entire National Guard, because if they’re not, they’re destined to fail. If you can’t do this job with passion, it will wear you down.”

Maj. Gen. Martin led the Connecticut National Guard with that passion for the past 13 years. On July 7, 2018, he relinquished command to Maj. Gen. Francis J. Evon, and is now retired from the service.