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CDC director retires after serving child development program for 24 years

CDC director retires after serving child development program for 24 years

Martha Mann, 14th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center director, interacts with children in the CDC June 26, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. The CDC provides care for Team BLAZE children from infancy until their first day of kindergarten. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

CDC director retires after serving child development program for 24 years

Col. Roger Watkins, former 14th Flying Training Wing commander (center), joins Martha Mann, Child Development Center director; Lt. Col. Mike Dilda, former 14th Mission Support Group deputy commander; and Justin Murphy, Columbus Resident Engineer, Mobile District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Ben Logan, president of Carothers Construction, in breaking ground on the new CDC June 3, 2009. The $6.5 million, 24,400 foot facility replaced the previous undersized child care facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob Corbin)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- The 14th Force Support Squadron’s Child Development Center provides care for Team BLAZE children from infancy until their first day of kindergarten.

Martha Mann, 14th FSS CDC director, is retiring after a total of 24 years in child developmental care and 22 years as director on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. She has been in child development programs within the Air Force since the 1980’s starting at Plattsburgh AFB, New York, helping shape the CDC’s direction from trainer to director internationally.

“I qualified to become a training and curriculum specialist and was so lucky to be one of the first trainers to be hired by the Air Force in 1990,” Mann said. “I fell in love with working in the Air Force.”

She spent two years as a trainer for Columbus AFB before applying for the director position. After a six-person interview lasting two hours, Mann was chosen to be the new director of the CDC.

“I have had the opportunity and great pleasure to serve Air Force families since 1996,” Mann said.

The CDC does many things to create a comfortable and outstanding learning environment and Mann said she remembers working to get a new building throughout the early 2000’s. She attributes the moving of the CDC into a newly constructed building, specifically for child care, to the entire 14th FTW.

Mann said her passion is helping children at the young ages develop socially and academically. To her, the military is as good as family and she loves it.

“I’ve been here for almost 30 years,” said Trina James, CDC desk clerk. “She came in shortly after me, and we’ve been working together ever since. It’s really in her heart. She’ll always talk with the kids and she even engages with the parents every day because at the end of the day they really are like our extended family.”

Unannounced inspections and tours from leaders across the Air Force continue to prove the 14th FTW CDC is always at the top levels of performance, earning awards consistently. Mann has even received recognition from the 23rd Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James in December 2017.

Mann recalled getting coined by James and was told the Columbus AFB CDC was one of, if not, the best child development programs in the Air Force.

One of the largest obstacles Mann recognized throughout her career was the perception of the CDC ‘babysitting’ children.

“We are here to offer the entire child growth and intellectual stimulation,” Mann said. “We always want them to have fun, but we also want them to have learning opportunities. That’s when the curriculum comes in, and a new one is coming out this September. My biggest challenge was to get parents to see this is broad developmental care, not ‘babysitting’ or care for only the basic needs.”
From the beginning of her career in the child development fields within the Air Force, Mann has seen the industry flourish into an opportunity for creating well-educated and well socialized individuals each generation.

Tears were brought to her eyes when she spoke about leaving the CDC, but she is glad to have time to peruse more volunteer opportunities in the local Columbus, Mississippi community.