Keesler Heritage: Matero Hall named after combat controller hero

  • Published
  • By Susan Griggs
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Tech. Sgt. Christopher Matero embodied the Air Force's core values of integrity, service before self and excellence, so naming Keesler's newest training building for this former technical training student was a fitting tribute.

Matero went through combat control training at Keesler in 1993. He was one of 10 service members who died in an MC-130H special operations plane crash during a training mission in the mountains of Puerto Rico in 2002.

Matero's first assignment was with the 314th Combat Control Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Four years later, he became a master instructor at the 342nd Training Squadron's combat control school at Pope AFB, N.C.

He earned a Community College of the Air Force associate degree in airway science in 1998 and a bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration from Campbell University in 2001.

Matero left active duty in 2001 to serve in the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Kentucky National Guard. That year, he was on temporary duty in Morocco when the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place. Soon after he returned, he and his unit were called to active duty and deployed to Afghanistan, where he earned the Bronze Star in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In 2002, he was called to duty with the Special Operations Command-South in Puerto Rico. Not long before he died at age 31, he learned about his selection for commissioning as an officer.

In addition to Matero Hall's dedication, the Christopher Matero Communications Award is given by the 342nd TRS at Pope to a combat control graduate who demonstrates exemplary tactical situational awareness in a combat environment.

Matero Hall, dedicated five years ago, is headquarters for the 81st Training Group.

Students from three different squadrons train in the facility, according to Lt. Col. Jeffrey McLemore, 81st TRG deputy commander.

"The 'Battlefield Airmen' programs - the 334th Training Squadron's combat control training and the 335th TRS' special operations weather training - take place here," the colonel explained. "Most of their physical conditioning requirements are conducted in the gym located in one half of the building.

"Additionally, the members of the 338th TRS have a TPS-75 ground radar maintenance trainer in one area," he continued. "There's also a 40-foot airfield systems climbing tower used to train the safe techniques for our radar maintainers."