Leading at the MUNSS

  • Published
  • By Capt. Shannon Hughes
  • 701st Munitions Support Squadron
Before coming to the 701st Munitions Support Squadron in 2010, I had heard of a MUNSS and geographically separated units but knew nothing of them.

Most do not know the 52nd Fighter Wing has four munitions squadrons attached to it, and the one I am a part of is in Belgium. We are classified as a geographically separated unit as we are a two-hour drive from Spangdahlem and an hour drive from the closest commissary. Although we are in the middle of Belgian farmland, I have never learned more about being a leader.

I am the mission support flight commander. When I first learned of my assignment, I thought I'd have no problem, since I had been a flight commander before in a services squadron. When speaking with my predecessor, she listed all that I'd be responsible for: the dining facility, fitness center, the club and recreation, personnel, and formal training. I was already familiar with services areas, and although I had never worked in a force support squadron, I was comfortable with personnel operations.

However, the rest of the list wasn't setting well with me - personal reliability program, finance, medical and civil engineering.

Other than being a customer, I knew nothing about finance or medical. I could barely fill out a work request correctly for civil engineering, and I thought PRP was a program for pilots consisting of a list of medicine they couldn't take. I was concerned, to say the least.
In the past three years as the flight commander, I've learned that no matter your job or how unfamiliar you are with your unit's mission, you are a leader. I'm not going to become a financial or medical expert -- I'm not even an expert in my own career field -- but I have people who are. I'm not here to do their jobs, but I am here to support them and facilitate them performing their duties. I've learned to trust them and give them the freedom they need while providing guidance and, if necessary, protection.

Young Airmen here are given responsibilities, ownership and are placed in roles that at times are reserved for seasoned NCOs. It might be difficult for some to give young Airmen carte blanche to perform their duties, but seeing their accomplishments and knowing they are proud of themselves is, to me, what leadership is all about. When they leave the 701st MUNSS, these Airmen will be far ahead of their peers and will have learned leadership skills that they could not have gained working in a traditional unit. It's up to me to make sure they take full advantage of this opportunity.

This assignment has taught me that one of the best qualities of a leader is noticing. To notice, leaders must be aware of their Airmen's concerns and challenges.

Functioning at a MUNSS can be difficult. We work on one country's base in pre-Cold War era buildings while our support base is in a different country and 100 miles away. This is my fourth assignment, including a deployment, and it was a huge transition for me when I first arrived to the unit. I can only imagine what it's like for a young Airman, some with families who have never been away from their homes, much less in a foreign country. This is not an assignment for Airmen to cut their teeth; therefore, we do not accept anyone coming out of technical training schools. There's no time to teach. We expect everyone to come here with experience already under their belts.
My primary responsibility is keeping our Airmen motivated and focused. I must be able to gauge those I'm responsible for and recognize when someone is having trouble, because they are held to the fire as soon as they arrive, even before they are finished in-processing.

I will never say that being a leader is easy, but it's the difficulty that makes me more effective. I hope I've made the right decisions along the way and would like to think that I've made a positive impact on at least a few of the Airmen. Leading at the MUNSS has helped me grow, too. Just like the Airmen in my flight, I think being a leader here will give me an advantage no matter where I go next.