FORT BELVOIR, Va. –
Calvin Martin’s career centered on fuel, and to this day fuel remains his passion.
“In 1961, President John F. Kennedy wanted to put a man on the moon,” Martin said. “He wanted trained engineers and scientists that were black to be part of the group and I was glad to be chosen. I was part of a team of military engineers stationed at Air Force Research and Development Command, Edwards Air Force Base, California.”
The team tested variations of fuels in order to find the right combustion that would get U.S. astronauts to the moon.
Being part of that team fueled his long career in fuel.
After serving in the Air Force for four years, Martin began his civilian career at Middleton Area Materiel Command at Olmsted Air Force Base, Pennsylvania. A year later, he relocated to Kelly Air Force Base, Texas, and eventually made his way to the nation’s capital.
“I wanted to get back to working in fuels and decided to make a huge change,” he said. “I accepted a job with Defense Fuel Supply Center as an environmental control officer in the D.C. area. My goal was to advance in the field I love.”
As the environmental control officer, Martin developed and managed an oil spill prevention program for more than 50 bulk petroleum and distribution terminals.
“When I accepted the job in 1973, I was the only one in the program,” he added. “I added two employees under me, a water specialist and an air pollutant specialist, to ensure that we complied with federal laws when transporting fuel to the customer. We conducted long-term planning for our storage facilities to ensure we mitigated harm to the environment.”
In 1981, Martin was selected as the Quality Assurance and Technical Operations director and from 1981 to 1995, he led an initiative to convert military-specification jet fuel to the commercial equivalent product to increase cost savings for the government and reduce the reliance on military specification fuel.
“He assisted in establishing a technical staff to engage with service engineering staff in moving specifications and standards to more closely align with industry,” said Quality Technical Support Directorate Deputy Director Lee Oppenheim.
The team worked with industry to ensure the military would be able to purchase fuel at commercial airports within the continental U.S. The fuel had to meet military equipment requirements without the price being driven up, Martin explained.
“We may have not started off knowing a lot, but we learned along the way. We ensured that we procured fuel within the customer’s requirements and got it to the customer. I did nothing on my own, it was all because of them — my team.”
Lynda Turner at Naval Supply Command Energy worked with Martin and also knew him when she was a customer working for U.S. Navy Air Systems Command.
“This early work set the focus for the later success of the Jet A conversion,” Turner said.
Jet A conversion came in 2014, after Martin had retired, when the U.S. Air Force required all of its bases to transition from using military-specific grade jet fuel to a civilian grade.
Martin understood the importance of a close relationship with industry. He ensured DLA Energy was active in standardization governance bodies including membership in the American Society for Testing and Materials, American Petroleum Institute, Air Transportation Association Energy Committee Task Force on U.S. Conversion to Jet A, International ATA Fuel Task Force and North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“I was chairman of ASTM for several years,” Martin said. “Our working group focused on burner fuels and kerosene.”
He led several investigations of off-specification products as well as petroleum, oils and lubricants policy decisions.
“Martin worked with the Environmental Protection Agency to change the dye authorized by EPA for use in off-highway (high sulfur) distillate fuels from blue to red. Blue was used in aviation gasoline and could cause confusion within the supply chain and disrupt aircraft fueling practices,” Turner said.
Based on this work, Martin published the professional paper, “The Effects of Dyeing Diesel Fuel Blue, Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Stability and Handling of Liquid Fuels, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, October 1994.”
Many who knew Martin refer to him as “Cal” and said he was a leader who took interest in their professional growth. He not only guided their direction but ensured they had the tools necessary to succeed.
Martin also managed and developed specialized commodity training and certification programs for the quality assurance staff and defense fuel region employees.
Despite his goal-oriented attitude, he understood the importance of work-life balance and showed interest in his employees’ personal lives.
“Cal went to my wedding and my daughter’s,” said Strategic Policy and Programs Director Regina Gray. “He cared about each and every one of his employees. I met him in 1984 and he was always a great sounding board and pushed those under him to take on more challenging tasks to grow in experience.”
Thanks to Martin, Gray joined DLA Energy after working in the private sector in Houston, Texas, as a chemist. She was seeking more stability and wanted to expand her fuels knowledge.
“He saw my resume and believed in me. I was a naïve 25-year old and knew nothing about the federal government,” Gray said. “Through his leadership style, I learned patience and integrity.”
DLA Energy Executive Agent Office Chief Cindy Smith explained that Martin’s approachable demeanor added to his leadership style.
“You could come to him if you had a problem and he would offer good advice and solutions based on his wealth of experience as a fuel chemist,” she said.
Martin continued to serve the Quality/Tech division even after his retirement in 1996.
“After retiring, he became a contractor developing tutorials and guides for newly emerging alternative fuels products to assist both DLA and customers in adapting to new requirements,” said DLA Energy Chemist Lindsey Hicks.
While reflecting on his career, Martin explained that he received impressive support over the years, ranging from bosses and peers to his family and friends.
“I’m really humbled by this honor,” he said. “I know that there are numerous other people who could be standing here … based on their great contributions to DLA Energy and worldwide support of the mission. I thank you for deeming me worthy of being inducted… I’ve been blessed.”