Airman aspires to inspire
By Staff Sgt. Wendy Kuhn, 121st Air Refueling Wing
/ Published August 04, 2019
RICKENBACKER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ohio --
Roger Bannister, a British middle-distance track and field athlete, was the first person to break the four-minute mile barrier on May 6, 1954. Bannister's time was 3:59.4, a record that lasted just 46 days. Since then, many more have achieved the feat and the one-mile record now stands at 3:43:13. So, what changed since Bannister's accomplishment? Why was it seemingly impossible for a man to run a mile in under four minutes before that day in 1954? The answers to these questions served as a large part of what motivated Tech. Sgt. Nathaniel Carter to not only do more in his own life, but to urge others to do more as well.
“I heard the story of Roger Bannister in a motivational speech by Les Brown and he said the runners who broke that barrier after him came to the starting line knowing it had been done and they believed it was possible,” said Carter. “I felt I needed to have that effect on the people in my life.”
Carter is a production controller with the 121st Air Refueling Wing Maintenance Group at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio. He grew up the oldest of three children in Columbus, Ohio. Things didn't often come easy for him, though. He said he didn't always step up to challenges and seek out opportunities to inspire others and it was often easy to give up and make excuses for his failures.
“In high school, I was told I had a learning disability and was placed on an IEP [Individualized Education Plan],” said Carter. “I got more rejection letters than acceptance letters. I constantly just failed, failed, failed,” said Carter.
In order to graduate high school, Carter said he had to take the Ohio Graduation Test 15 times and was last in his class. He was eventually accepted to Youngstown State University, but ended up leaving to join the Air National Guard in 2008 at the urging of a family friend, 121 ARW's own Retired Chief Master Sgt. Kenny Eagle. In 2015, he utilized the GI Bill to complete his Bachelor's Degree in Business Communications at Franklin University.
“When I was told I was always going to be behind, I decided I wasn't going to let that be my reality. My mentality is that I'm going to make it my goal to always outwork everybody else in the room,” said Carter. “I need to be the Roger Bannister for the people around me.”
As a member of the 121st Air Refueling Wing, Carter not only does his job full-time, but he also enjoys volunteering to escort schools and other groups during base tours.
“Avalon Elementary is in my neighborhood and they came out on a tour last year,” said Carter. “I told those kids, I live in your neighborhood. I'm from your community!”
He remembered being very inspired that day when a child on the tour later approached him to ask if he would still be there when he joined the unit.
“I felt like this kid walked in that day just on a school tour and walked away with a dream – a goal to work toward,” said Carter.
Carter was also inspired by his step-father, who helped start a local charter school targeting at-risk youth, and he said he strives to likewise inspire his siblings to do more in their lives. His sister has also gone on to receive her degree and is the manager at a cruise line and his brother is currently working towards his degree and serves in the U.S. Army.
“I think often when people hear an inspirational story it's something tragic or really hard, but I just went through the steps. I just told myself I'm going to take on this challenge,” said Carter. “I just want to keep building my story. What else can I do?”
Carter said he hopes to get involved with more volunteer organizations and is currently working with a local high school to speak with the kids there.