The National Park Service Organic Act of Aug. 25, 1916, created a new service under the Department of Interior. In honor of Founders Day, today’s Veteran of the Day is a member of the 103-year-old organization.
Matt Carroll, a New Jersey native, graduated high school and left for the University of Arizona in 1985. He started as an aerospace engineer student on an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship. Carroll chose the Air Force to pursue the space program, in part inspired by the movie The Right Stuff.
The journey to space started out at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, in 1989. Carroll spent four years there as a missile launch officer. Through the years, Carroll had several other stops: missile instructor at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California; teacher at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado; staff officer at Air Force Space Command Headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado; staff officer in the Pentagon; and six months monitoring peace on a United Nations mission in Africa, working alongside Russian and Chinese military officers.
Carroll said two memories stuck out.
While on a year assignment to Thule Air Base, Greenland, Carroll was one of only a hundred U.S. Airmen deployed to the northernmost U.S. outpost.
“Most people think that Thule is not a garden spot, but there’s a unique beauty to the Arctic,” Carroll said. “We were removed from society for a year. People focused on the mission. We bonded as a group.”
Tragedy and transition
One of those bonding moments came on 9/11, as Airmen crowded around televisions to watch the tragedy unfold.
Carroll said another significant moment was his last job in the Air Force, finally working in space. While still in training as the safety officer, his team had to detonate a faulty intercontinental ballistic missile just after launch. Within a couple hours, he was explaining to national press the safety reasons for destroying the missile.
Carroll said his time in the military helped him transition in 2014 to the National Park Service for two reasons. The first reason was his experience in operations and how to make timely decisions regarding people, budget and policy. The second reason was his passion, which was volunteering in the outdoors. His love of camping and hiking morphed into volunteering off-duty for land agencies, which led him to the National Park Service, where he serves as superintendent of Greenbelt Park and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
“I work for an agency with a mission I believe in,” Carroll said. “It was a natural evolution to what I loved to do. Like the military, we are focused on service, doing the mission and doing it successfully. We have a responsibility to the American people—our ultimate customer.”
Thank you for your service!
To learn more about the National Park Service’s work with the military, visit American Military website.