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Passion for teaching drives Iraq-based military training instructor

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Trish Freeland
  • U.S. Air Forces Central
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.

The military training instructor couldn't have predicted it then, but also he would go to Iraq and help Iraqi BMT instructors push their flights.

Two years into his MTI tour at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Sergeant Coltrin finds himself deployed to the 370th Expeditionary Training Squadron as an air adviser to Iraqi BMT instructors at Al Taji Air Base.

"I love discipline. I love drill. I love the extreme passion for being the best you can possibly be," the native of Lake Charles, La., said. 

"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."

Sergeant Coltrin has taken advising the Iraqis full throttle. He's learned the Queen's drill that Iraqi airmen use and also learned to use Arabic drill commands.

"I messed up a few times while calling commands, but they covered for me," Sergeant Coltrin said.

Before becoming an MTI, Sergeant Coltrin spent four years as an F-15 Eagle avionics technician. But since earning his MTI hat, he has excelled, earning special recognition as a blue rope -- an honor bestowed on the top 10 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," Sergeant 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. I always set my standards extremely high, but any way the Air Force wants to use me would be outstanding. I just really love the Air Force." 

Teaching is Sergeant Coltrin's passion, and it runs in his family. His mother Tama Ray, is an assistant principal at J.I. Watson Middle School in Iowa, La. His wife and sister also teach.

"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."