By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Fort Jackson)August 30, 2018
Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Martin has turned his lifelong passion for hunting into an Army career. He is the first and only master hunter employed by Fort Jackson.
The active duty Soldier is a native of Marshall, Virginia, and grew up playing out in the woods of the Foothills.
"I've hunted all my life," he said. Growing up in a Family of six, he said venison helped supplement the groceries. It also kept neighboring farmers happy; his Family shot the deer eating their crops.
Ever since then, Martin has used outdoor time as a means of decompression. He didn't realize it could also be his military job until 2010.
That year, he found out a master hunter position existed at Fort Benning.
They had a pig problem. The population had grown out of control, Martin said. Since the Army wasn't going to "fork out" funds to solve the issue outright, they hired a "master hunter" to take care of it.
Martin thought it was "the most amazing job in the Army." He had no idea something of the sort could exist when he first suited up as an infantryman years before.
Martin brought the idea to Fort Jackson and was offered the position.
The Directorate of Emergency Services was glad for the hire.
"Having someone who's a subject matter expert" is important in every field, said Deputy Chief of Police Derek Rohr of Washington, D.C. That's why the master hunter position is pivotal, he said. The master hunter demonstrates the proper hunting-related safety measures and strategies to other hunters on post. The master hunter guides them to do better.
Martin is perfect for the position and is "an asset to (the) organization," Rohr said. "He absolutely wants to give back to the community." Rohr said Martin's commitment is "absolutely phenomenal," and that he's a great fit.
Martin began his tour in June.
This job was the perfect opportunity stay outdoors doing what he loves.
Now he leads trapping efforts, assists the game warden and works with the Directorate of Family Morale, Recreation and Welfare.
"We had bad coyote problems," Martin said. Since he and his colleagues began their trapping program within the last two years, they have captured 162.
The overabundance of coyote on Fort Jackson has thrown off the ecosystem, decreasing deer and turkey populations.
He is the vice president of the Fort Jackson Sportsman Club -- a group of hunting, fishing and outdoor enthusiasts.
More than anything, Martin says he acts as a liaison between the Garrison Commander and the game warden.
"I facilitate for the hunters and anglers," he said. He helps find answers to their inquiries and tries to resolve their requests.
That's important, because hunting is a "cathartic" and "very familiar" activity for many service members on post, Rohr said. Having an advocate allows them to pursue their recreational hunting passions.
Martin says the name "master hunter" really refers to his coordination abilities.
"It doesn't mean I'm a great hunter," he said.
The title signifies that he's a steward for conservation on post.
Since Martin has started in his official role, Rohr says there has been heavy involvement in related programs and conservation.
Martin says working with the outdoor world is important to him because he wants to maintain it for the next generation.
"I don't (hunt) because I hate (animals)," he said. He says he hunts so that all species will still be around for his kids to enjoy.
Part of his job revolves around teaching children about sustainability. He is currently working to implement a "show and tell" into post schools surrounding hunting and wildlife. One of his many daily tasks is working with FMWR to "get (kids) away from the PlayStations." When his daughter asked when she could get a phone, he responded, "never," and told her to go climb a tree.
He hopes all kids, and especially his own two daughters -- Valerie, 11, and Emily, 10 -- will carry on outdoor recreation traditions.
He takes his girls out to hunt and fish to encourage them.
Martin seeks out deer, doves and catfish, too. He won't hunt deer at Fort Jackson anymore, though, because he says he has an unfair advantage over other hunters. Part of his job is tracking where they live.
To help future hunters get a leg up, he is currently getting certified to teach the required hunter's safety course at Fort Jackson. He has many other projects up his sleeve too, and hopes to demonstrate how important the master hunter role is. He aspires to help implement the position into the ranks of all of the future installations he works with.
If the experience on post is representative, it may not be hard to do.
"Fort Jackson has an enormous wildlife footprint," Rohr said. The master hunter ensures that it doesn't leave a scuff mark on the natural world.