ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. --
Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., commander, Air Force Materiel Command, said he gleaned much during his recent visit to Arnold Air Force Base, but there was one takeaway he reiterated throughout his wrap-up meeting with base leadership.
“We’ve got awesome Airmen here doing awesome things, and they’re really committed to the mission,” Bunch said.
During his Feb. 7 visit to Arnold, the headquarters of Arnold Engineering Development Complex, Bunch surveyed facilities and talked with base personnel. Before he departed, Bunch conferred with base leadership, sharing his observations and detailed several goals he’d like to see accomplished.
Bunch’s tour of Arnold was part of his series of visits to all host bases within the AFMC major command. Although Bunch is no stranger to Arnold, visiting multiple times while serving as commander of the Air Force Test Center, it was his first time seeing the base through the eyes of AFMC commander, a post he assumed in May 2019.
“One of the things I often get asked is, ‘What do you get when you go out and you visit all the places and what do you see?’” Bunch said. “What I find are just true Airmen wanting to do great things, committed to the mission, inspired and really working hard to get it done in the face of quite a few opportunities, as I will refer to them.
“I love the energy. I love the initiatives. I love the innovative things that are going on. I really liked interacting with everybody and how proud they were of what they’re doing, so you all are setting the right leadership example.”
Bunch said seeing teams at Arnold working together to complete a myriad of projects “reenergizes” him and provides further motivation to solicit support for ongoing efforts at the base.
“What you’re doing is critical for our nation,” Bunch said to Arnold leadership.
Chief Master Sgt. Stanley Cadell, command chief, Air Force Materiel Command, accompanied Bunch on his tour of Arnold. Cadell said he was impressed by what he observed, particularly the professionalism and dedication of base personnel.
“I’ll just start off by saying, ‘Wow,’” Cadell said. “Wow. This day has kind of been mind-opening for me just to see what goes on.”
Arnold is “running the spectrum” by working on capabilities Air Force officials wish to field as quickly as possible, such as hypersonic systems, and conducting testing to set future capabilities.
Bunch commended the efforts of Arnold leaders in this regard while urging sustained diligence.
“It is remarkable,” Bunch said. “I love the fact that you’re writing the reports. I love the fact you’re involved. I love the fact that you’re engaged with the program offices. Those are things we started a few years back that you all are continuing to go do, and I applaud it. I think that’s how we motivate the whole workforce to understand how critical what they’re doing is, and how much it contributes to the mission. And I believe if we don’t do those things and keep them motivated and give them great things to do that we’ll end up losing a lot of that workforce.”
Leaders from Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, joined Bunch’s meeting with Arnold leadership via teleconference. Bunch lauded the alignment of sites within the AFMC, which enables different bases to share processes and allows for increased efficiency through optimization and standardization.
“I think that teamwork, that comradery, that partnership, is real important,” he said.
Bunch said he aspires to have Arnold leadership involved on the front end of the project process to further bolster efficiency.
“My goal is to have you involved as early as possible with the programs,” Bunch said. “I believe that’s the best thing we can possibly do to make progress. I would much prefer you all counsel the program managers who are trying to build a program than have them build the test program and then come tell you what they’re going to do and then you go, ‘Huh?’”
Another goal Bunch discussed is the implementation of more digital engineering across the AFMC. He said this effort would be led out of the AFMC Headquarters at Wright-Patterson.
While Bunch said Arnold leaders have excelled in the utilization of Service Life Extension Program funding, describing facility upgrades completed through the program as a “home run,” he said those at Arnold have continued to succeed in the face of “some very interesting infrastructure opportunities.”
“I know you do not have the capacity to do everything we’re asking you to do,” he said. “I know that takes money to be able to do. There are some things I’ve learned today that will help me better articulate what those limitations are and where you’re at with some of your shortfalls. I’ll be having those dialogues as I get into the building meetings and into some of the budget meetings. There are some ways we may be able to engage a few extra folks to try to help you.”
Another challenge broached by Bunch was that of the Air Force IT network. He said AFMC leadership intends to explore ways to improve this, as well as discuss the training and education required to meet mission needs.
In his final takeaway, Bunch noted Arnold AFB has a tremendous asset in its invested and committed workforce.
“When I start talking about, ‘We do our wartime mission every day,’ I think a lot of them have taken that to heart and they’re operating with a sense of urgency to get things done, because I really believe that’s how important what we’re doing is to the National Defense Strategy and what we do to support the warfighter and what we’re going to do in this near-peer competition,” he said.
Bunch added the efforts of personnel across Arnold AFB should be a source of pride for base leadership.
“You all ought to be very proud of the Airmen who get to work for you, or you actually work for if you use my vernacular, who are doing great things,” he said.
AEDC Commander Col. Jeffrey Geraghty said Bunch was impressed with the team at Arnold AFB and the passion its members have for the mission.
“He recognized just how constrained we are by limited resources but pressed a message of gratitude for getting the mission done with such professionalism,” Geraghty said. “He understands just how vastly important AEDC is to the National Defense Strategy.
“The leadership team here at AEDC HQ deeply agrees with Gen. Bunch’s message of gratitude to the men and women accomplishing the mission. Mr. Coker (Jason Coker, AEDC Vice Director), Chief Heckman (Chief Master Sgt. Robert Heckman, AEDC Superintendent) and I want to take every opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to the workforce. What’s better than to walk around the base with our four-star commander and his Command Chief as they say ‘great work’ to our team?”