News: ‘Grounded’ in military heritage
Story by Jo Adail Stephenson
FORT LEE, Va. -- Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Randall “Rand” Kuenzi has a clear image in his mind of what military heritage means to him.
While serving as the Defense Contract Management Agency International’s senior enlisted advisor and superintendant of aircraft operations, Kuenzi and two of his fellow government ground representatives visited the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Belgium. That cemetery is where his uncle, Army Sgt. Otto Kuenzi, was buried after being killed Sept. 4, 1944. Otto Kuenzi was one of several Swiss-American brothers who served in the U.S. military in World War II and the only one of the brothers who did not come home.
Overwhelmed by the cemetery’s pastoral setting, Kuenzi vividly remembers seeing his uncle’s grave and walking through the cemetery that day. The experience left a lasting impression about the commitment he and others have made to serve and defend their country.
The military tradition of “passing the torch” to the next generation of those in uniform is especially poignant to Kuenzi as he culminates his two-year DCMA tour and his Air Force career, which spanned a quarter of a century.
In a recent ceremony at DCMA headquarters recognizing Kuenzi’s service to the agency and the nation, Navy Rear Adm. Robert Gilbeau, DCMA International commander, presented him with the defense meritorious service medal.
As DCMAI personnel witnessed the award presentation, Gilbeau spoke about how Kuenzi’s military service “has protected us and kept us safe and kept our families safe. We’ve only got to see him for two of those 25 years but they’ve been two great years.”
Gilbeau personally thanked Kuenzi for his efforts in the recent DCMA headquarters move and said, “It just exemplifies what he’s done throughout his career. We appreciate what he has done here at DCMA as well as signifying the fact that he’s had a very, very fruitful and distinguished 25 years of service.”
While at DCMA, Kuenzi was responsible for ensuring quality military aircraft were delivered safely from contractor operations overseas to U.S. military and foreign allies.
He spearheaded a reorganization of manpower between theaters to enhance resource flexibility while directly advising seven field commanders on policy and programs involving more than 200 joint military personnel.
“When I got to DCMA, I realized people are people no matter where you go. It doesn’t matter where you work – on a completely joint team, a one-service team, predominantly civilians, predominantly military. It is people to people that gets the mission done, and it is people to people synergy that gets it done in the best possible way,” Kuenzi said.
Charged with the professional development of 18 joint enlisted aircraft operations personnel, he established a training and mentoring process to ensure new personnel were prepared for their duties. As a result, 80 percent of the directorate’s aircraft operations sites received highest marks during headquarters level inspections.
“I always think your strength is in your people. If you don’t see yourself as a strong piece of that people puzzle, it leads to even more frustration.” Kuenzi said as a team player, “sometimes I’m the member on the team and sometimes I’m the team leader.”
Kuenzi’s can-do attitude and action-oriented perseverance have stood him in good stead throughout his Air Force career.
“That’s the farm kid in me who ‘got’ groomed and grew up and went to aircraft maintenance,” said the New Glarus, Wis., native. “In aircraft maintenance, failure is not an option. Success is the only accepted outcome.”
He credits his “grooming and growth” to the people he encountered throughout his military career. “I felt like each person was brought into my path for a reason.”
Kuenzi said he looked at each encounter not in the classic networking sense but how it could help him bring more to the mission.
"Basically, I squeezed every relationship as hard as I could to get every drop of opportunity and growth, and even faith, out of it,” he said. “Life is a two-sided coin. For every issue you have, there’s a solution.”
His work ethic and philosophy are tempered by humor and humility. “I truly believe if you’re not having fun doing what you’re doing, then you need a new attitude or you need a new office location or maybe you’re not the right person to be doing what you’ve been asked to do,” he said. “When it comes to having fun, I’ve always been an instigator and a coordinator.”
Kuenzi’s sense of humor begins with himself. “I treat every day like my own personal roast,” he said. “If you can laugh at yourself, you can overcome so many other issues. Ego does not get in the way of the person who roasts themselves every day.
“Humility plays a huge part in having fun and enjoying the mission you’ve been tasked with. As a professional, I look at it as not just a mission, it’s my calling,” he said.
Reflecting on his 25 years of military service, Kuenzi said, “I’m just so proud to have served with all these people and especially my military compadres. It’s an honor to serve. I’m retiring after a very fruitful career. I wouldn’t change a thing. Ten years from now I will look back and say I did exactly what I was supposed to do.”