Air Force four-star general hired as school administrator for the first time

It can be daunting to leave the military and find work elsewhere. For many general officers, that means being a member of boards of directors, policy centers and public speaking events – for a fee, of course. Or, for a four-star Air Force general, that means returning to his hometown to work for the county school system.

As reported in the April 13 Citizen Tribune, the Hamblen County School Board in Tennessee voted this week on a new superintendent for the county school system.

In his current role, General Arnold W. Bunch Jr. serves as commander of Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The command conducts research, development, testing, and evaluation for every Air Force weapon system. With nearly 90,000 military and civilian personnel and a budget of $67 billion, it is one of the Air Force’s largest commands.

Bunch’s appointment caused bureaucratic blockages. Without a background in education, Bunch did not meet the qualifications given by the school board.

During a public interview, Bunch admitted that he lacked prior education experience, but offered his leadership of 81,000 people under his command as a possible replacement.

Satisfied, the school agreed and changed its hiring policy.

Bunch told the school board he wanted to be ‘back in the fabric of the community’ he grew up in and would apply experience from his previous career building teams and communication skills with his subordinates. . And while a county school district might have a slightly smaller scope than the Air Force Materiel Command, Bunch has a habit of trying to hold those he leads accountable.

In 2020, after 25% of respondents to an Air Force Materiel Command command and climate survey reported racial slurs, jokes and racial innuendo in the workplace, Bunch said he was “disappointed and frustrated” and became one of many high-ranking generals. appeal to the branch to address racial disparities within its ranks.

“If we remain silent or overlook these issues, we will allow them to continue,” he said. “We don’t want spectators in our command. We can make mistakes along the way, but the biggest mistake we can make is to do nothing and just hope for the best.

Or, as he shared in 2019 when asked about his leadership philosophy, “the one thing I challenge young officers and young people to do is count how many times they thank you in a day. Because if you don’t say thank you very much and you think you’re doing things on your own, you’re wrong.

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Martha K. Merrill