Student Spotlight

Martin York Named U.S. Air Force Cadet of the Year

Graduate student in AeroAstro recognized for exemplary military performance, academics, and physical fitness.

By William Litant

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Martin A. York, a graduate student in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro) and a cadet member of MIT’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Detachment 365, has been named the 2016 Air Force Cadet of the Year. Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein presented York with the award in a Dec. 12 ceremony at the Pentagon.The award is sponsored by the Royal Air Squadron, a private organization of prominent British aviation enthusiasts. The honor pays tribute to the Air Force for supporting the United Kingdom over the years and recognizes the most outstanding cadet in an Air Force commissioning program. Its criteria include military performance, academics, and physical fitness.

The squadron’s nomination of York was effusive in its praise for his performance and abilities. “Cadet York is No. 1 in everything he does — first in leadership, academic, research and fitness. There are none better,” it reads. Among the nomination’s accolades, York is cited for having led the MIT ROTC detachment to the highest combined grade point average and Air Force physical fitness assessment (GPA/PFA) average in the nation while he was Cadet Wing Commander. He oversaw “intense and professional” military training activities, inspired future Air Force leaders through oversight and coordination of Junior ROTC cadets. As a sophomore, he was elected co-chair of the prestigious Arnold Air Society, a professional, honorary service organization advocating the support of aerospace power.

He is lauded for having been in the top 1 percent of his MIT senior class, and was named to the Dean’s List seven times. Under Professor Warren Hoburg, he worked as a research assistant on the groundbreaking D-8 “Double-Bubble” design for a future commercial aircraft. He lead 10 students developing a high-altitude balloon project, configuring GPS and radio equipment to collect atmospheric data at an altitude of 100,000 feet. He is currently a research assistant in the Aerospace Computational Design Laboratory under Hoburg.

The nomination termed York “a fitness juggernaut.” Five times he received a perfect score in a cadet fitness program, played intramural ice hockey and football, and twice set North Carolina powerlifting records.

Commenting on York’s recognition, MIT AFROTC commander Lt. Col. Sheryl Ott said, “The Detachment cadre are so proud of Cadet York’s achievements! The most important aspect of ROTC is the training and leadership that the cadets provide each other, within the Cadet Wing and Leadership Laboratory. Cadet York is a great example for the younger cadets.”

York holds a private pilot’s license with instrument rating. He has been given an Air Force pilot training slot, and his goal is to be accepted for astronaut training.

AeroAstro head Jaime Peraire lauded York’s award, saying that “Martin represents MIT at its best: excellence across the board — academics, leadership, sportsmanship and service. We’re honored to count him as part of the AeroAstro community.”

York is the second MIT USAF Cadet and AeroAstro student to be named Cadet of the Year since the award’s inception in 2000. The first was Ryan Castonia ’10, SM ’10, who received the award in 2009.

MIT’s AFROTC detachment is named “Doolittle’s Raiders,” an homage to famous MIT alumnus General James “Jimmy” Doolittle SM ’24, ScD ’25. Among Doolittle’s many accomplishments was receiving the Medal of Honor as commander of the Doolittle Raid, a bold long-range retaliatory air raid on the Japanese main islands following the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

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