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August 3-7, 2020
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ENR's 2003 Award of Excellence Winner: Col. Gregg Martin

April 5, 2004
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(Photo by U.S. Navy / Arlo K. Abrahmson)

Martin’s positive attitude and endurance are the qualities people talk about most. "One thing anybody who has ever met Gregg Martin remembers about him is the enormous energy he has," says Wallace. "And it is not just personal energy, it is energy that becomes contagious; contagious within the organization he is in command of, but also contagious across the entire formation."

From his first posting after graduation from West Point in 1979 and subsequent training in the Army’s Engineer and Ranger schools, Martin has demonstrated the qualities that made him an outstanding leader in the Iraq campaign. In raising him, his parents had emphasized education and public service. His late father, Donald Martin, a Navy veteran from World War II who went to college on the G.I. bill and earned a master’s degree in education, worked with public agencies and served local government in his community. His mother Patricia earned her own degree after her five children were no longer small and became a guidance counselor. Public service "wasn’t something they talked about, it was something they lived," Martin says.

Engineers relieve strains on society and boost the economy with repairs to infrastructure and work for local contractors.

An early Army evaluation of Martin lays out his key qualities: "Extremely knowledgeable in all areas of engineering and able to transfer that knowledge to those under his supervision...very articulate and open in expressing his opinion and enthusiastically carries out whatever decision is made...most physically fit individual in the company...a leader that continuously challenges and motivates the younger soldiers...Martin is going to be an outstanding officer whose career should be carefully managed to insure maximum exposure to soldiers. Recommend civilian schooling."

Martin eventually got plenty of civilian schooling, although his military career had a false start. He originally planned to join a pair of highly regarded uncles in the U.S. Coast Guard. He was all but accepted to its academy after high school but failed a vision exam. Deeply disappointed, he enrolled in the University of Maine, thinking of going into forestry. Instead, he discovered the Reserve Officers Training Corps, fell into its program and applied to all the service academies the following year. He was accepted at West Point and his military career was off and running.

After his first command in Germany, the Army sponsored Martin to a master’s program at MIT in 1986. He was an extremely motivated student and piled on extra courses that interested him. "I tried to keep related to military engineering," he says. He emerged 21 months later with two master’s degrees, one in civil engineering and one in technology and policy, and all the course work completed for his next campaign–a Ph.D. He received a doctorate in engineering management and public policy in 1992.

Martin’s career took him back to school several times, adding two more master’s degrees. "The commanders who come out of the field to go to school tend to do extremely well," he says.

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The field experience was his foundation. Martin served in Germany as a lieutenant in the 94th Engineer Battalion, a unit that backs up combat operations with heavy equipment, and later as a company commander with the 79th Engineer Battalion. Martin credits that period with helping prepare him for Iraq. It included three heavy doses of intense construction under extreme conditions rebuilding a vital NATO training range at Grafenwoehr, Germany.

For each of three years, one of the impact areas was shut down for construction while the surrounding range continued in a training uproar. "You actually had tanks and Bradleys on the move all around, artillery shooting at all hours, attack aircraft screaming in at treetop level. It was a lot of fireworks," Martin recalls.

"It was a monumental effort," says Lt. Col. Paul Grosskruger, who also worked on the project as a junior project engineer and platoon leader, and went on to command the 94th Engineer Battalion under Martin in Iraq. During last spring’s fight, Martin used the 94th as one of the most aggressively deployed combat heavy battalions in history. "I don’t think any combat heavy was ever deployed as far forward as the 94th engineers," says Lt.Col. Mark Holt, Martin’s deputy commander during the assault. One of the 94th’s companies took its road management and road construction equipment "right on the heels of the calvary, even in front of the infantry," Holt says.

 

VIDEO

Col. Gregg F. Martin, Award of Excellence Winner, talks about military engineering efforts in Iraq.

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