Senate confirms Brig. Gen. Russell A. Muncy

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U.S. Air Force photo/Linda Welz

The Senate announced its confirmation, Dec. 10, of Russell A. Muncy’s promotion to brigadier general. Muncy is commander of March Field’s host unit, the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, the Air Force Reserve Command’s largest wing. Although the announcement was just received, Muncy’s official date of rank is March 26, 2015. There will be a formal pin-on ceremony at March ARB in January 2016.

Since working for Muncy, Senior Airman Jose Magallanes, administrative technician, 452 AMW, has learned to make eye-contact when speaking with people, he said.

“He’s very straight-forward, very approachable, very intelligent,” Magallanes said. “I don’t think having one star will change him. He seems like a very humble person.”

Muncy’s goals remain the same as they did when his command began here in November 2013—to highlight the importance of March Air Reserve Base, the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, and all the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine and Department of Homeland Security tenant units associated with this base as well as to grow the base where ever possible.

“I will continue to press, publicize, advocate for all the aforementioned entities,” Muncy said. “I think this base has not only significant prominence in our Air Force history, but also is of strategic importance to today’s military mission.”

March ARB’s location situates the base perfectly in line with the renewed focus on the Pacific Theater or Operations. Muncy noted that Camp Pendleton’s First Marine Expeditionary Force uses March Field as its primary point of embarkation, and said that the base has recently reached out to Fort Irwin, deploying one of their brigades. In addition, the broad mission set based at March Field is phenomenal, spanning all branches of service as well as the three Air Force components; Reserve, Air National Guard and active duty.

“The regional importance that we share with all of our partners—I don’t think it can be matched in Southern California or elsewhere,” he said.

Maj. Kevin Reinholz, Staff Judge Advocate (JA), AFRC/JA March ARB operating location, said that the wing has been a great partner for which to work, and that Muncy, as a wing commander and primary client, has been excellent.

“He’s someone who’s very by-the-book and concerned with what Air Force Instructions have to say about matters,” said Reinholz, an active duty JAG assigned here to support a Reserve wing. “As a JAG, you really can’t ask for more from a commander/client. It’s been very smooth, and my expectations from a RegAf (regular Air Force) perspective, coming to a Reserve base and a Reserve wing, have been exceeded. It’s been a pretty smooth transition.”

Moving forward, Muncy sees the operations tempo coupled with the continued manpower reductions and shortfalls, especially those that are full-time, as the biggest challenge here.

“Not only do they affect day-to-day capability, they start affecting morale as we continually have to manage a work load that is becoming unsustainable with the reduced personnel available to execute that workload,” he said.

Lt. Col. Scipiaruth Curtis, 452 AMW process manager, describes Muncy as a “straight-shooter, an honest and cordial person with a dry sense of humor.” With him, accountability is number one, she said. He has integrity and professionalism. He’s a leader that is much easier to follow because he is very fluent in, and knowledgeable of, the rules and regulations, Curtis added.

Muncy said that although he thinks his promotion may assist in highlighting the importance of this base, and advocating that further into an already very supportive community, that moving his goals forward will still be challenging.

“There is going to be continued analysis of personnel departments,” he said. “There are just more personnel billets needed throughout the Air Force Reserve than there are billets available to assign.”

Muncy believes there will be continued scrutiny to see where units can trim, and said that he will continue to advocate that there is no excess in the wing program, especially on the full-time side of the house.

“We’ve got to start putting back some administrative capability within the individual units,” Muncy said. “Too much has been pushed down to the commanders to act as their own administrative staff, having to work programs that perhaps they don’t have the expertise in or the time to learn how to fully execute, and do their job as commanders. This is especially true for our traditional Reserve commanders. We really need to figure out a way to put some manpower back into the administrative functions as we have just become too lean in these areas.”

His background

Muncy said he came into the Air Force never thinking that this would be his career.

From a small Kentucky town, Muncy said his family was by no means wealthy. As a young lad, he accompanied his engineer grandfather on surveying jobs and found that he enjoyed the engineering perspective. When it came time to think about college and a career path, engineering factored into his decision when the idea of applying for the Air Force Academy came up.

“I applied for a couple of reasons,” Muncy said. “One, the Air Force Academy was and is a top notch engineering school, and two, the cost of education was and is government funded, alleviating the need for me to ask my parents to pay for or assist in paying for my continued education.”

That’s how Muncy got into the Air Force, but staying in was a different story, he said.

“I was, as a young cadet, extremely homesick with no military background whatsoever–definitely out of my element,” he said. “That first year at the Academy was an eye-opening, head-jarring experience to say the least. But, I did end up staying and graduated in 1983. After graduation, I chose to go to pilot training as I felt that was another career opportunity for my post-military career.”

“I became a KC-135 pilot in 1984 and flew tankers for another six years before getting out in December 1990 with the intent of going to the airlines,” Muncy said.

The irony in Muncy flying tankers for much of his career is that his family owned and operated a full service gas station for more than 40 years.  He said that he spent many days, afternoons and weekends working there.

“I went from pumping gas at my family’s service station to joining the Air Force, only to find myself pumping gas at 30,000 feet. But at least I didn’t have to wash the windows anymore,” he said.

By the time he submitted his airline application in 1991, pilots were being furloughed he said. So Muncy flew in the corporate sector for a while, worked as an insurance auditor, and eventually landed in the medical career field as a medical administrator.

“Looking back, I cherish my time in the civilian sector as the experience I gained in those five years has paid dividends for me in the Reserve,” Muncy said. “That experience has helped me understand and relate to what our traditional reservists experience in their civilian jobs. If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing because all of those experiences helped make me a better leader in today’s Air Force Reserve.”

It was late 1994 when Muncy received a call from the Air Force Reserve asking him if he would be interested in coming back as a pilot. After an application, and getting through the interview process in October 1995, Muncy donned the uniform once again, as an Air Force Reserve captain.

At that time, he said becoming a general never entered his wildest dreams. His highest aspiration might have been to be an 0-6, colonel, operations group commander, which he said he thought would be a milestone achievement. But even that was a pipe dream he thought.

He started his Reserve career at the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Grissom ARB, Indiana, where he remained for five-and-a-half years before transferring to Headquarters, Air Force Reserve Command, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, and subsequently to Portland International Airport, Oregon; Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, and finally here.

He has always looked at his career moves as whatever the command needed is what he should do, he said. With each of his jobs, Muncy said he has gone in and done the best possible job he could do without worry to where that job may lead.

“You go in and do the job. You don’t worry about what the job will lead to,” he said. “If you’re doing a job looking for the next job or looking for the next promotion, then you’re not going to be doing your job as effectively as you should be, and I think you’re seeking the wrong motivations to do the job.”

His Advice

The one thing Muncy wants his Airmen to know is to build bridges. By that he means that Airmen should look ahead to build a bridge using education–civilian degree programs and/or Professional Military Education (PME), or a job, he said.

“You’ll never know whether you will want to cross that bridge to take on that next job, to make yourself available for a promotion, or take on that next leadership challenge,” Muncy said. “But if you don’t build that bridge, you’ll never be able to cross it.”

In his years of command, Muncy said he has seen requirements for promotion go through cyclical changes. Sometimes there may be certain requirements to reach a specific rank or job and sometimes those requirements go away.

“If you’re betting on those cycles hitting at just the right time, then you’re betting your own career on what may or may not happen,” he said.

His advice? Build that bridge. Get your PME done. Get your Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) degree. Get an advanced degree. Get breadth of experience. This advice applies whether you’re enlisted or an officer, he said.

“If you decide not to cross that bridge, then let that be your choice. However, if decide that you do want to cross that bridge, and you’ve failed to build that bridge, then you have done yourself a disservice.”