Belleville resident honored as 2012 Missouri Air National Guard 1st Sergeant of the Year

  • Published
  • By Bill Phelan
  • Special to the 131st Bomb Wing
A St. Louis native now living in Belleville, Ill. is the Missouri Air National Guard's Outstanding First Sergeant of the Year for 2012.

Master Sgt. Sheldon G. Matthews, 44, serves with the 239th Combat Communications Squadron, headquartered at the 131st Bomb Wing Air National Guard Base at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, where he is the squadron first sergeant. He is also a full time systems engineer at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

Following a nine-year stint in the regular Air Force, Matthews joined the Missouri Air National Guard in 2000.

"My wife and I decided that the National Guard would be the best fit for us both to continue with our careers," Matthews said. "And we wanted some sense of stability for our children. The Guard gives me that, to have that stability and still serve my country."

As one of four Missouri Airman of the Year, Matthews is now a candidate for the same honor in the First Sergeant category at the national level.

"First sergeants kind of consider themselves the best of the best so this is a real honor," Matthews said. "Being Airman of the Year means you competed with the best and to be selected means others think highly of your accomplishments and abilities."

Asked how one becomes First Sergeant of the Year, Matthews is straight forward.

"Primarily it's your leadership qualities, communication skills and a good word from your boss doesn't hurt," he said.

In Matthew's case the "boss" is Lt. Col. Dean Benson, commanding officer of the 239th.

"Master Sgt. Matthews mentors other airmen; he serves as master of ceremonies for our professional events, he brings his technical skills to the unit and I believe his daily interaction with all branches of the military at Scott Air Force Base benefits our younger airmen," Benson said. "He's the whole package. He brings credit to the Air National Guard. He even looks good in his uniform."

A 1985 graduate of Normandy High School in St. Louis, Matthews earned a degree in computer information systems from McKendree University of Lebanon, Ill. in 2006.

Master Sgt. Matthews and his wife, Elisa, are the proud parents of three children.  Elisa Matthews is an Air Force retiree.

The other Outstanding Airmen of the Year are; Master Sgt. Eric J. Gremminger, of the 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base and Lambert-Saint Louis, the Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; Tech. Sgt. Frederick G. Pierce, of the 139th Airlift Wing in St. Joseph, the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year; and Senior Airman Scott S. Krueger, of the St. Louis-based 157th Air Operations Group, the Airman of the Year;