Corcoran’s 30 years of service took him around the world
ELKINS — Matthew Corcoran now has time to look back on the things he accomplished, and the places he visited, during his 30-year career with the United States Air Force, after retiring as a Senior Master Sergeant in April.
Corcoran’s journey, which took him around the world, began with basic training at Lackland Air Force base in February 1991. He enlisted after earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Fairmont State College in 1990.
“I had just got married to my wife Tina and was having trouble finding a job in the area after graduating from Fairmont State, so I decided to give the Air Force a try,” said Corcoran, who is a 1986 graduate of Elkins High School. “It turned out to be a great decision for me that I would do all over again.”
Corcoran said that Operation Desert Storm was underway while he was in basic training and that the training instructors did not tell anyone that the war had ended until after they graduated.
“The drill instructors were excellent at getting the most out of you,” he recalled. “Looking back at some of the mental games it’s funny, not so much back then though. One thing they did was one night they pulled the fire alarm after we had spent hours getting our bed and locker in inspection order. When we came back the whole dorm was trashed and the drill sergeant said he was sorry he had to tear everything up looking for that fire.”
After basic training, Corcoran went to Lowry AFB in Denver, Colorado, for technical school. His first assignment after that was at Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota where he spent the next four years.
“On my dream sheet for my first assignment, I picked several bases in the Southeast U.S.,” he said. “But the joke was on me, I was assigned to Ellsworth for four years. My wife, dog and myself rented a U-Haul and made the journey to Rapid City. But after being there for awhile we learned that South Dakota was a hidden treasure, with the Badlands, Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore Deadwood, which had a little casino where me, my wife and some friends ran into Kevin Costner one evening. He was two tables behind us playing black jack the whole night and my wife actually got his autograph.”
While at Ellsworth, Corcoran was deployed for the first time and was sent to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for Operation Southern Watch in 1993. He did logistics work there in support of the Southern no fly zone mission.
“That was probably the best experience of my military career,” Corcoran said of his first deployment. “I was selected to go on an incentive flight on a KC 135 Refueling Plane and watched Navy F-18s being refueled over the desert of Iraq. While a fighter was getting refueled the rest would be on either side of the refueling tanker pulling security. When one fighter had a full tank another would swoop down and get fuel.”
Corcoran’s next assignment would take him to Elmendorf AFB in Alaska for the next three and a half years. It was there where he witnessed the worst tragedy of his career on Sept. 22, 1995.
” I had just arrived at work and was talking to my supervisor outside when an AWACS Intelligence Aircraft took off,” he said. “We saw sparks come from the left engine and the aircraft proceeded to climb. It then banked to the left and exploded into the biggest mushroom cloud ever and fell into the forest at the end of the runway. The aircraft with the call sign Yukla 27 had on board 24 crew members, including two Canadian armed forces personnel, who all perished. Canadian Geese were sucked into the engine and caused the crash.
“But overall Alaska was beautiful and we saw such things as glaciers, moose, eagles and enjoyed catching Halibut. We became citizens of Alaska while there and received the oil dividend, which we used to go to Hawaii a couple times.”
In October 1998, Corcoran left active duty and went into the 130th Supply Squadron of the West Virginia Air National Guard in Charleston. While there he received another deployment that sent him to Incirlik AB in Turkey in support of Operation Southern Watch.
In July 2001 Corcoran participated in Operation Southern Storm. During this time he helped with severe flooding in West Virginia and was involved in hands-on cleanup work of debris, helping the citizens of McDowell County.
Corcoran was assigned to the headquarters of the West Virginia National Guard in 2002 where he spent the next 17 years.
“During my time at headquarters I cross-trained into the contracting career field and completed numerous classes held around the country to become a warranted contracting officer,” he said. “During this time I was hired at the United States Property and Fiscal Office (USPFO-WV), in Buckhannon as a federal employee in the contracting section. So I had two positions doing contracting.
“At the USPFO-WV, I have put contracts in place for most of the Army units leaving West Virginia for deployments. I also completed a $4 million contract in support of WVNG military working the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, Summit Bechtel Reserve, in Fayette County. The contract was key in the success of the event, because it was for support tents, living quarters and meals for 1,100 military.”
In April 2010 Corcoran volunteered for a deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. He was there for seven months and ended up a lot more than he expected.
“As a Master Sergeant I thought I would be a contract officer while assigned there,” he said “It turned out that I was the highest ranking enlisted and was handed the responsibility of being the noncommissioned officer in charge and handled First Sergeant responsibilities, for 80-plus military, civilians and contractors.
“I was also in charge of the largest Field Ordering Officer program within Iraq, which was in charge of the handing out and tracking of cash which soldiers used in their daily transactions with the locals. Overall the deployment was a good experience except for the unexpected incoming mortars that happened frequently enough to remind you that you were in a combat zone. I remember a couple times the giant voice announced incoming while we were in the dining facility. Everyone would run under something for cover. Once the only thing available for me was the salad bar so that is where I went.
“The explosions were so loud that they could be a half of a mile away, but seemed to be within feet,” he said. “I learned to enjoy life even in the worst of circumstances. Moral Welfare and Recreation brought numerous celebrities in that we were able to personally meet such as Darryl Worley, Uncle Kracker, Randy Johnson, Dennis Haysbert and Robert Patrick, to name a few. I even caught catfish in Saddam Hussein’s old lake outside his former palace.”
During his career Corcoran traveled to six middle eastern countries and 42 states. He visited Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey, Iraq, Qatar and Kuwait while deployed.
Cocoran received a Master’s Degree in Strategic Leadership from Mountain State University in 2009. Corcoran said the Air National Guard afforded him the opportunity to earn the degree debt free.
Corcoran said he felt that it was just the right time to retire this year.
“I’m 52 now and it comes to a point where mentally and physically you know it’s time,” he said. “I retired as a Senior Master Sergeant and the position as Contracting Superintendent. My retirement was in the most unique situation as it was during the coronavirus and no family was allowed to attend. The General and Colonel presented me with an Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, a West Virginia Meritorious Service Medal and an awesome shadow box in a virtual ceremony.”
Corcoran’s awards include: Meritorious Service Medal with one device, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal with one device, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with four devices, Air Force Good Conduct Medal with two devices, Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal with five devices, Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal with one device, Southwest Asia Service Medal with one device, Iraq Campaign Medal Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal, Air Force Overseas Ribbon Short, Air Force Overseas Ribbon Long, Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Border, Air Force Longevity Service with one device, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with one “M” Device with two devices, Air Force NCO PME Graduate Ribbon with one device, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon with one device, and Air Force Training Ribbon.
Corcoran will celebrate 30 years of marriage to his wife in November and the couple have two daughters. Alexandria and Shyanne.
He is the son of James Corcoran (deceased) and Delores Flint of Ogden, Utah.
“My wife was with me through the whole journey and I could not have done it without her support,” said Corcoran. “I was blessed with a great career and I’m glad I made the choice I made. I got to travel a lot and was able to take advantage of the educational opportunities. The Air Force helped me grow up and get a stable career going and it was an honor to serve. I also thank the Good Lord for keeping me safe in some very difficult situations.”