Air Force OAY: MSgt. Marcus Mader

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ryan Conroy
  • 24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

The twelve most outstanding Airmen in the Air Force were honored during a symposium recently, and Special Tactics’ own Master Sgt. Marcus Mader was one of them.

Mader, a Tactical Air Control Party Airman, was selected as the Outstanding Senior NCO of the Year for 2016 for the entire Air Force

From a pool of the major command’s 36 best and brightest, a selection board at the Air Force Personnel Center chose 12 Airmen based on their superior leadership, job performance and personal achievements.

"Master Sgt. Mader is the epitome of what we seek in Special Tactics Airmen," said Col. Michael Martin, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing. “He is a hard charger: he leads without hesitation, always ready for any challenge and continually performs at the highest level.”

For Mader, the Air Force is a family business. He grew up a military brat, moving from state to state. His father is a 21-year Air Force veteran, and Mader decided after high school to follow in his footsteps.

After a year of the ROTC program at the University of Tennessee, he realized the officer route was not what he envisioned for his life. So he made the next logical decision: enlist.

"There wasn't one defining moment where I decided to enlist," said Mader. "I wanted the discipline and I figured once I'm in for six years, I'll do some growing up and make a decision from there. Even at eight years, I thought I would do ten and check out."

Mader enlisted in 2001 as a TACP operator and until the rank of staff sergeant, his whole life was training or deploying. In fact, Mader deployed nine times in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM.

The majority of TACPs embed with conventional ground forces to provide precision terminal attack of U.S. and coalition fixed and rotary wing close air support aircraft and establish and maintain command and control communications to advise ground commanders on the best use of air power.

In 2009, Mader had the opportunity to become a Special Operations TACP and was one of the first selected to embed in the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field.  

“It was an interesting time, when all of a sudden TACPs were in a team room of combat controllers and no one knew what to do with us,” said Mader. “I pushed through, picked up leadership roles and learned everything I could and my time culminated as a flight team leader. It was pretty awesome.”

In Mader’s award package, the word “leader” was listed 16 times. There is a reason for that: he led his flight through a 3-month pre-deployment training cycle, getting three Special Tactics Airmen qualified in joint terminal attack control and ready to deploy within five months of arriving to the unit. When a UH-60 Blackhawk crashed in the Gulf of Mexico last year, Mader stood up a dive team and coordinated 92 dives over five days to honorably return the 11 men who were killed in training.

Additionally, he led 60 Airmen through a seven-month deployment preparation, pushing 22 special operations forces to three areas of responsibility, where they delivered 582 strikes and an estimated 1,200 members of so-called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant eliminated. Finally, Mader dedicated himself as family support when a teammate was killed in action, leading a local memorial and dignified transfer, and raising $5,000 in his fallen teammate’s honor for the Gold Star family.

Mader says he owes his leadership abilities to Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Lindsey, who is now a command chief at the Air Force War College at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

“It’s an interesting relationship that I have with him because at first we didn’t get along; in fact, you could call it butting heads,” said Mader. “Chief Lindsey taught me that you have to treat people with respect and like human beings. Although everyone on my team works for me, ultimately I worked for them.”

When he found out he was the Air Force’s outstanding SNCO, he acknowledged he was surprised, because of the exceptional Airmen he has worked with.

“The caliber of professionals in the organizations across the wings and finding out that you were chosen is truly humbling,” said Mader. “[Winning] doesn’t change the facts of how I got there or the work we still need to do. When it boils down to it, it was about taking care of people and looking after them, and I expect to continue to do that.”

Mader now serves as the Special Tactics Training Squadron Recruitment, Assessment and Selection superintendent, where he continues to lead with innovation and dedication by grooming tomorrow’s Air Force ground operators.