Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
On May 21, Army Corrections Command officially announced Staff Sgt. Matthew Oliver, 526th Military Police Company, 40th Military Police Battalion (Detention), as the 2020 Corrections Professional of the Year.
Oliver, platoon sergeant for Spartan Platoon, was one of several corrections officers considered for the award.
Nominees represented the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks; the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility; the Northwest JRCF at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; and the U.S. Army Regional Correctional Facilities in Europe and Korea.
“(Oliver) is the epitome of a corrections professional based off demonstrative performance and expected potential,” said 40th MP Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Haliburton. “What he does on- and off-duty equally… it was essentially a no-brainer.”
According to the official nomination, over the past year Oliver has served as an assistant watch commander, earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Post University and is currently working on a master’s degree in business administration management with a concentration in marketing; was inducted into the Lamp Chapter of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, and now serves as president; and more.
“To accomplish the myriad of tasks, (Staff Sergeant) Oliver often worked six- to seven-day weeks, a testament to his dedication and professionalism,” said Brig. Gen. Duane Miller, ACC commanding general, in the official announcement on the 15th Military Police Brigade Facebook page. “(Staff Sergeant) Oliver increased the professionalism of the correctional force, while focusing efforts on decreasing stress and increasing opportunities for soldier and family readiness.”
Oliver said he thought it was cool that he was nominated for the award but never expected to be chosen as the recipient because the award is typically given to senior noncommissioned officers.
“I did a lot of things in a one-year time frame, so I was overwhelmed that they chose me at my level. That shows how they saw all that (I did),” Oliver said. “It’s easy to say something can’t be done. It’s easy to say that something is hard. There were times that I got pushed to my breaking point, but the difference is that I didn’t let that stop me. I would just take a break when I needed it, take my knee for the day and then get back up.
“At any given time, anywhere between 30 and 40 individuals are looking to me for direction in their career. … When I began this process, I knew it was going to be a tough two years, but it’s my leadership time, it’s critical. I’ve got to give it everything I got. My motivation and my goal are to show them how it’s done and lead the way,” he said. “I want the (privates) and the (privates first class) and the specialists of the world to know what right looks like, what the standard is and what they can achieve even at the staff sergeant level.”
Oliver said part of the way he does that is by giving soldiers specific reasons why what he or she is doing is right or wrong, a technique that he learned in his childhood from working on the family farm in Arkansas.
“(My dad) taught me the work ethic of not being lazy and the importance of responsibility,” Oliver said. “While we pruned tomatoes, dad would teach me why he’s doing it.
“It taught me along the way to teach people what they’re doing and why they’re doing it,” he said. “Give these soldiers feedback. It’s what motivates them to do something whereas just doing something because I’m telling them to isn’t as effective.
“I hope that (this award) shows them that it doesn’t matter what your rank is,” he said. “You can achieve these things.”