by Senior Airman John E. Hillier
Air National Guard Readiness Center Public Affairs
7/28/2014 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- When
you talk to Tech. Sgt. Douglas Matthews, a proud member of the Special
Operations community, one concept quickly emerges: the Team.
Team members, team mission, team challenges and team accomplishments.
Being part of a team is at the core of how Special Operations
accomplishes their mission, not only on the battlefield, but in every
facet of their jobs. For Matthews, the Air National Guard Outstanding
Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year, and one of the twelve Air Force
(active component) Outstanding Airmen of the Year, the complete team
focus is a way of life.
Matthews is a combat controller with the Oregon Air National Guard's
125th Special Tactics Squadron at Portland Air National Guard Base. He
was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in combat on Nov. 27, 2012 in
Afghanistan. Matthews was injured in the battle, when an improvised
explosive device was detonated under his vehicle, triggering a
large-scale ambush on his patrol. Despite his exposed position, he
coordinated close-air support against enemy forces. He refused medical
evacuation to remain and engaged the enemy with multiple air platforms,
and allowed his team to break contact and return to base--remarkably
with no loss of life.
The Silver Star is the nation's third-highest decoration for gallantry
in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in
military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force.
Matthews refers to his job as being the team's guardian. "Combat
controllers all have a sense of guardianship for the team. We take a lot
of responsibility for them, doing everything we can. We're managing
aircraft, looking around trying to give our teammates the best
situational awareness of what's going on, on the battlefield."
Even during his year-long recovery, Matthews made every effort to be a
good wingman to his team members who were still deployed.
"It can be pretty hard to leave that, to almost abandon those guys while
they're still over there. You feel like it's your responsibility to
help them out, to watch their back," he said. But there is no shortage
of wingmen in a Guard unit, and the 125th lived up to that creed. "It
takes a while to adjust, and it's a very different lifestyle. You rely
heavy on the support of close friends and teammates at home who have
shared those similar experiences," Matthews said.
After five years of active duty service, Matthews joined the Oregon Air
National Guard in 2008 in order to continue his education while still
serving the nation. He is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in
integrative physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder.
"The combat control career field is small. There are only two units in
the ANG. I wanted to go full-time to a university and the Oregon Air
Guard allowed me to live wherever I wanted to and drill quarterly. I
grew up in Colorado, so that's where I live. I wanted to still be able
to serve in whatever capacity I could manage while still getting my
Matthews has made physical fitness not only a lifestyle, but soon it
will be his occupation as well. He is in the process of opening a cross
training gym in the Boulder-Denver area.
"I like the variety with the workouts. There's always something
different you're doing; there's always something pushing you," said
Matthews. "I like the community with [the sport]. It's a great social
outlet." While military life means moves and deployments, Matthews says
that he can easily find a wingman through fitness. "No matter where you
move to, where you go, there's always some place you can easily meet
Even a professional wingman needs some solitude from time to time, and Matthews finds it by being outdoors.
"I have to be outdoors - I lose my mind if I'm cooped up inside
somewhere," he said. "I love to go hiking. I grew up rafting a ton. I'm
into amateur photography. It's almost therapeutic to grab the camera and
go on a hike and take pictures of whatever things you see. I can do it
by myself or with other people. It especially goes really well with the
things that I like doing - being outdoors."
Whether he's serving in the Air National Guard, attending college
courses, working out at the gym or enjoying the outdoors, Matthews shows
that Guardsmen are always on mission for their country and their