MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. -- Col. Russell Muncy will assume command of the 452nd Air Mobility Wing at a 10 a.m. ceremony Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, in the Cultural Resource Center on March Air Reserve Base, Calif.
Muncy grew up in the small town of Hazard, Ky. and said it was a great and very safe place to grow up, but way back in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, and definitely a different lifestyle compared to Southern California.
He was a good student, on the honor roll all through school, but not valedictorian material, he said. He never missed school and it came fairly easily to him through high school. He wanted to be a civil engineer, like his grandfather, but got side tracked.
"When it came to choosing a college, I thought about a football scholarship (he was a wide receiver in high school) and was offered some looks at some small schools but they didn't offer engineering," he said. "I looked at the Air Force Academy. It was the only military academy that I considered. They had a great engineering program and it kept my folks from having to pay for my education."
He took some college classes while in high school, thinking it would prepare him for the Academy, but said he didn't know if there was really any preparation for the Academy. His grades were not as good there as in high school, partly because he was not quite prepared and partly because of maturity, he said, adding that he didn't study as much as he should have.
"But I was stubborn. I think that was what got me through the Academy. I almost quit my freshman year. Being homesick played into it," Muncy said. "I went through the process to resign out of the academy. I made it up to the final step and this lieutenant colonel said, 'You know what? You're right. This place is not for you. You need to go back to Kentucky. Go to the University of Kentucky and be Joe College.' That annoyed me. I said, 'Tear it up. I'm gonna stay.'"
Upon his graduation from the Academy in 1983, Muncy served on active duty as a KC-135A/R pilot and squadron safety officer, before leaving the service in December 1990.
He met his wife, Angela, in 1991, entered the Air Force Reserve in 1995, and they were married in 1999.
"She had never been around the military until we met while I was a civilian. Then I came back into the Reserve and drug her to Georgia; to Portland, Oregon; to Andrews (Maryland); to Tinker (Oklahoma) to here (March). She's very, very, very supportive," he said. "Unfortunately it's been at the expense of her career as a respiratory therapist."
Muncy, who loves steak (medium), action/suspense movies and classic rock, officially began his work at March Field after his arrival from the 507th Air Refueling Wing, Tinker AFB, Okla., Nov. 7. He said his basic philosophy is to trust but verify.
"People have the best of intentions when things are brought to you, but as a commander you have a greater responsibility to look beyond the immediate circumstances, and look at the more strategic nature of what's going on with the mission and the wing," Muncy said. "So it's incumbent to trust what folks are telling you, or asking you to sign off on, but then verify it. That's why I'm a firm believer in knowing what the AFIs (Air Force Instructions) state so that you can follow the guidance that's in the AFIs."
By following that philosophy, Muncy said the personnel understand where he is coming from and what the expectations are. When you give them those expectations, the vast majority of the people live up to or exceed them, he said.
Drawing from tough lessons learned, Muncy said a commander must thoroughly understand the situation before making a decision.
"In the past I've gotten called in the hallway and told we need to do this. So I said, 'Cool. Go.' And then it comes back to bite me because I didn't have the entire site picture and what the impact of what that decision was going to be," he said. "It's just important that a commander understands the decisions that are being made and the impact those decisions can have on an organization."
Muncy relies on his people to do the work that is required of them without micro-managing, said Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Brown, Command Chief, 507 ARW. He believes in his Airmen, cares about his people and understands that the mission doesn't get done without them, Brown added.
"With Col. Muncy, respect is the key. When he arrived (at Tinker AFB), we didn't know what to expect, but he provided standardization and a sense of stability," said "When he walked in here, everyone gave him respect, but it didn't take long for him to earn that respect."
Muncy leads by example, Brown said. He is meticulous, yet effective and will provide different perspectives, and evaluate based on standards and instructions. He treated every single person in this unit (507 ARW) fairly and with respect, he added.
The colonel wants his Airmen to know that he is fair and consistent to a fault.
"The only thing that a commander has to stand on is a reputation. Being fair and consistent establishes expectations," Muncy said. "If an Airman sees that I make this decision for this person and grant them the ability to do something, but then I don't let the next person do the same thing, then I've hurt my credibility as the commander. That's another reason that I fall back to what's in the AFIs."
One of Muncy's pet peeves is someone who does not possess one of the Air Force's Core Values; Integrity.
"You must have integrity. Only an individual can compromise his or her integrity and no one else can take your integrity from you."
He is also a firm believer in the chain of command and expects the group commanders to manage their groups. With that approach, Muncy said it is vital for commanders at all levels to establish accountability. Then, when expectations are communicated, the Airmen will do what they are able to do, he said.
Another pet peeve he has is people that don't do what is expected of them and then gripe about not getting opportunities, he said.
"You've got to do what's expected and you've got to follow the Air Force Core Values if you really want to flourish and succeed. Service Before Self is one of those key Core Values," Muncy said.
That's a Core Value that fosters the biggest expectation that Muncy has for Team March members; teamwork.
"Without teamwork, we are not going to survive; whether that be within the 452nd or whether that be working with the tenants on the base or active duty associate partners. The way of the Air Force in the future, given today's current budget constraints, is more teamwork and more Total Force Enterprise Initiatives," he said.
In that respect, the biggest challenge Muncy sees with teamwork is getting one entity to put themselves in the shoes of the other entity when they are working together.
"If you look at it only from your own self interest, the team is not going to function as it should," he said. "Each team member has to really look at what the impact is to the other teammates and ensure that there's a common goal or view of where they want the end result to be. When you get to that point, then you'll have an effective team."
Although Service Before Self fosters teamwork, which is a Core Value that Muncy is behind 100 percent, he describes himself as extremely introverted.
"I have to force myself to get in front of people, to speak and to get out into the public," he said. "That's one of the biggest challenges (as a commander) that I have to constantly overcome."
Admittedly a workaholic, Muncy said he spends too much time at work, leaving him no time to tinker with his motorcycle and a few cars that he enjoys working on.
Personally, he tries to live a good life, set a good example and be that leader that others can look up to, he said.
Professionally, he sees his responsibilities as mentoring and growing that next set of leadership.
"I don't worry about personal legacy, but I view any commander's legacy as the success of the command for years to come and the success of the Air Force," he said. "So I do my best to grow that next level of leadership that will be in position five or ten years from now."
Hoping that his greatest accomplishment is yet to come, Muncy said he is very proud to be here and to be associated with the 452nd. He thinks there are many things that can be done to grow the wing's great reputation even further.
Maj. Amber Marcella, 452 AMW executive officer, loves the structure and the requirement to live up to Air Force standards. She describes her new boss as very kind and said she is very excited about the way ahead and working toward his vision.
"We are the largest wing in the command and with that, I think we have a responsibility to be the lead wing for the command," Muncy said. "That's my goal."