Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Monday, January 11, 2010

By the book: Command Chief Muncy on how to become a successful NCO

By Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
National Guard Bureau

Now that the colder months are upon us, there’s a book Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Muncy, command chief of the Air National Guard, wants to curl up with this winter.

It’s the newest version of Air Force’s “The Enlisted Force Structure,” which was revised and republished this year. Although it’s not a suspenseful “whodunit,” Muncy said NCOs and officers alike will gain much from its pages. It’s the not-so secret of his success.

“I lean to this, a lot,” he said, holding up the little brown book in his office, at the National Guard Bureau in September. The thin 20-plus-pager fits easily into a uniform pocket. Although it has no photos, “it does not take a lot to read,” he said.

Last May, after becoming the top enlisted Airman in the National Guard, Muncie immediately went to work visiting units around the nation and engaging senior leaders at the bureau and the larger Air Force. He carried the little brown book wherever he went. If there is an “Airmanship for Dummies” manual, then Muncy used the Enlisted Force Structure as his Air Force NCO guide, which he pushes today with the newest edition.

“I give this to joint service members to understand who we are,” he said.

Also called “Air Force Instruction 36-2618,” the book applies to all enlisted members of the Air Force, including the Air Guard and Air Force Reserve.

In short, it defines the enlisted force and its purpose. It describes the ranks, their expectations and responsibilities. It also tells readers what broad duty titles like “NCO-in-charge” or “superintendent” mean and what’s expected in those roles.

Bound to be successful

Muncy calls it an “irreplaceable reference tool of the trade” for Airmen. Journalists have their dictionaries; priests have their bibles; Airmen should consult their little brown book with as much conviction, he says.

“A lot of things have changed and we’ve had to change to rewrite this edition,” he said. “We put a lot in … about our ‘Wingman’ concept, which is the same thing as our ‘Battle Buddies’ on the Army Guard-side. We talk a little bit more about resiliency, about preparing for the fight, preparing to take care of each other.”

Although the book is studied Air Force-wide during professional military education courses and basic military training, Muncy said too many Airmen leave it behind.

He used the little brown book in his career as a combat communications specialist for the Ohio Air Guard and deployments overseas. He referenced it as Ohio’s command chief, he brought it to Washington to help him on enlisted advisory councils, and now thumbs through it for help on national issues. He’s given it to military officials from Hungary and Serbia – Ohio’s state partner nations – as they work to build an NCO corps.

“I talk to [Airmen], I talk to commanders and supervisors, and I tell them, ‘if you can take this little brown book and apply it and roll through, the rest should be easy.’”

“It’s not going to tell you how to be the best avionics technician or the best security forces or tactical air control person, but it is going to get you through the basic airmanship stuff, enroll you, and help you be prepared.”

A storied career

Muncy enlisted in the Air Force in 1977 while still in high school. His grandfather, who served during World War II, was the last person in his family to serve.

“I went on active duty and did not know what the Guard was,” he said.

A family emergency brought about his switch to the Guard. He needed to get back home, and after reading an article about a program allowing members to serve in the Air Guard, called “Palace Chase,” he joined his first Guard unit.

He served on a combat communications squadron that in the ‘80s leaned forward in joint operations with other military components – something the Air Guard fully practiced as an operational force in the Gulf War and in today’s Global War on Terrorism.

Following 9/11, Muncy deployed to Germany in theatre-level management. He returned home only to deploy again in the invasion of Iraq as an Air Force-in-Europe liaison to U.S. Central Command at a combined operations center. On his return from Saudi Arabia, he became the command chief of Ohio.

“It was probably the greatest job I ever had,” he said. “I saw a lot of different weapon systems, which helped build my background and knowledge.”

At book’s end

Now the Air Guard’s top sergeant says the biggest and best part of the job is seeing Airmen and Soldiers, seeing what they do and being “absolutely fascinated” by their talents.

“The Air Guard is still misunderstood after 62 years of existence, but the Guard’s misunderstood after 373 years of existence,” he said. “I think … it’s because we’re good. And that’s our traditional-status Guardsmen, all that strength that they bring from their jobs and their employers from hometown America.”

The little brown book helps define Airmen, no matter what their backgrounds are, or what their service component is, or where their careers have taken them, Muncy said.

“At the back of that [revised] book, we put in the Airman’s Creed, which is what we are all about,” he said. “To be an NCO in [the Guard], Air or Army side, you’re the core. You are the core of what we do.”

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