Alabama Guardsman receives Black Engineer of the Year awardStory by Sgt. William Frye
Photo by Sgt. William Frye
On most drill weekends the 3rd Modular Battalion, 200th Regiment is out in the field at the Pelham Range in Anniston, Alabama training the Alabama National Guard's newest generation of engineers. Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth B. Walker is one of the dedicated instructors charged with teaching the horizontal construction engineer military occupational specialty (MOS 12N) qualification course. Walker is also now the recipient of the Black Engineer of the Year Association’s 2017 Stars and Stripes National Guard award presented at the association’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) conference, Feb. 9-11, 2017. Walker's award letter stated, hundreds of America’s most creative and innovative military leaders have been nominated for this nationally recognized honor, but only 15 individuals have achieved this distinction. Walker says, the size and power of the machinery drew him to engineering, but as he progressed in rank and position, he soon found a higher calling. Walker loves “being able to lead junior soldiers and give them instruction on how to advance their careers.” Walker said. “When I was a private I got looked over a lot. The senior enlisted wouldn't show me some things because I was just a private”. “So I made it my business to ensure that what I know they know, they know,” said Walker. “I like giving all the knowledge I have away and watching junior enlisted and NCOs grow.”
“If you knew me personally” Walker explained, “you'd know that I'm a very generous person. It fills me with gratitude to watch young kids who have no direction in life join the guard and find a new path to go down, and watch them flip from negative to positive.” Walker said ”I get a lot of joy out of that because I just helped someone switch from doing negative to doing positive that's only going to help them and their family. I like to watch positivity grow.”
Walker also mentors elementary school kids in his hometown of Dothan, Alabama. “I am honored and very humbled,” said Walker, Speaking of the Stars and Strips United States National Guard Award. “I'm just a guy from a small town who gets to receive an award in Washington D.C.”.
Walker's acceptance letter said that his award comes at a critical time for the United States, STEM enrollments are declining in our country exactly at the moment when the global economy is driving up demand for STEM professionals. The future of America rests in or nation's youth hearing Walker's narrative.
Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth B. Walker makes notes on a piece of heavy equipment while at drill, January 29, 2017, at Pelham Range, Alabama. Photo by Sgt. Jeremy Dunkle