BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
For some, the key to a good work-life balance includes the addition of hobbies to their day-to-day life. Whether it is reading, video games, golf or paintball, the list can go on and on.
For Senior Airman Marshall Sutton, 2nd Maintenance Group weapons lead crew member, his hobbies come with two wheels and are raced on dirt track.
“It all started when I got my first dirt bike at 4 years old,” Sutton explained. “My father was more mechanically inclined, so he wanted me to be involved with something like dirt bikes over other ball sports.”
By age 10, his motocross career began. He spent a lot of time at the track with his grandfather learning and perfecting his skills, getting better with each passing day. He continued to progress in the sport until a broken femur pulled his racing to a halt. At the same time, his grandfather’s health began to decline. Slowly, Sutton started to lose focus on everything else in life, including racing. Nearly two years later, his grandfather passed away.
“It really took a toll on me, but it was during that time that I set my determination on being every bit of the man he was,” Sutton said.
His grandfather retired as a technical sergeant in the Air Force after serving 20 years as a combat medic. The day Sutton graduated high school in 2016, he left for basic training. He arrived at Barksdale in 2017 and knew he wanted to start riding again. The path back to his passion began with mountain biking; however, little did he know a normal trip to a local bike shop would change his life forever.
“The shop owner introduced me to BMX (Bicycle Motocross) racing, and I agreed to check it out,” Sutton said. “I borrowed someone’s bike that night and ever since then, I knew that’s where my home was here.”
Within a year of racing, Sutton was able to reach an expert-level class. Just last year, he was ranked the number one rider in the state of Louisiana and 55th in the entire U.S. for the Gold Cup Championship.
“It has really helped me progress in my career and accept the base as well,” Sutton said. “I feel it has given me a chance to be who I want to be, helped me develop and grow my skills as a leader and a trainer and motivate me to keep working on myself each and every day.”
Sutton’s growth and progression has not only been noticed within himself, but by his leadership as well.
“The minimum is never enough for him,” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Fulcher, 2nd MXG weapons lead crew team chief and Sutton’s supervisor. “He is always bringing in new ideas to the table and figuring out ways to improve shop functions and tasks.”
Despite the large amount of time he spends at the track, working on his bikes, and working toward becoming a better racer, Sutton has a very good handle on his work-life balance.
“His hobbies never interfere with his work and he always loves telling BMX stories and giving updates on his bikes,” Fulcher said. “I believe this helps his success at work because our job is very stressful, and everyone needs an outlet to simply do something they enjoy.”
Sutton has not only helped himself through BMX, but the local community as well. He is a certified trainer able to teach others and promote better riding skills for racing. He is a part of a mentorship program that travels to elementary schools to advocate bike safety and ride-your-bike-to-school days. Currently, he is helping work toward an initiative to get the city to build a pump track to give people a place to ride equipment like scooters, skateboards, roller skates, and bikes.
“BMX is one of those lost hidden sports that a lot of people don’t know about,” Sutton explained. “It helps boost physical fitness and honestly anyone can do it. It’s for anybody of any skill level.”
BMX and motocross are not the only hobbies he advocates for. In fact, Sutton believes that having a hobby not only can help someone’s career, but also change their perspective on current situations.
“I think a lot of people get consumed by what others say as far as like ‘oh this base sucks’ or ‘there’s nothing to do.’ I think it is how people put themselves in a rut,” exclaimed Sutton. “You’ve got to get out there and find something that sparks your interest. Something that you could go do and not think about negatives at work, something to blow off the steam.”
Hobbies are different for everyone, but some don’t even have one. Sutton has one piece of advice when it comes to finding it.
“Don’t let fear get in the way. I like to think of it as a race,” Sutton explained. “If you are too scared to take the first jump, you’ll never get over it and onto the next. There’s always going to be hurdles, but you must conquer them in order to finish the race. Now that I am over mine, I’m doing what I love, I have a large family here outside of this base and it is all because of BMX – it has given me a lot, it really has.”