Sioux City. Iowa --
With most of the unit’s 800 plus members gathered in a large aircraft hangar, as well as friends, family and numerous dignitaries, Colonel Mark Muckey was officially given the reigns as the newest 185th Air Refueling Wing Commander on March 2, 2019. The change of command ceremony was held at the Sioux City, Iowa Air Guard during a chilly March training weekend.
The event also served as a kind of official welcome home for the Sioux City, Iowa native, whose career path, in his own words, “was not exactly linear” before coming full circle back to his home in Sioux City.
Muckey grew up in the Morningside area of Sioux City, Iowa where his early education was somewhat indicative of the rest of his career path. He was a student at Morningside Christian School, but eventually graduated from East High School in Sioux City in the mid-1980’s.
While still in high school, Muckey joined his hometown Air Guard unit in Sioux City which was an A-7 Corsair fighter wing at the time. As an enlisted member of the 185th, Muckey initially worked in the communication flight as a drill status guardsmen but he knew early on that he wanted to fly. Following high school, Muckey had already become a private pilot. He had also started a roofing and siding business while at the same time attending classes at Morningside College on an academic scholarship.
Wanting to complete his education, Muckey eventually made his way to Iowa State University in Ames. However, he was still hoping for a chance to be selected to fly the Corsairs. Before graduating from ISU he got the call: he had been selected to attend pilot training at Vance Air Base in Oklahoma.
“They called me at Iowa State and said, how fast would you be willing to go, because they had some pilot vacancies and I said, ‘Today?’ ” Muckey remembered.
Although there would be more twists and turns to come, completing pilot training did not mean that becoming a fighter pilot was in the cards for the young lieutenant. Muckey remained in Oklahoma and began doing the same kind of work he was doing in Sioux City - building homes. He also remained in the Air Guard, working wherever a junior officer was needed, and began flying his new unit’s C-26 Metroliner, a twin turboprop that allowed him to continue his aircraft currency.
Muckey’s stars began to re-align along the same path as those of the185th Air Guard back home in the early 2000’s when the Sioux City Air Guard ended a 50 year history as a single seat fighter unit and began flying the KC-135 mid-air refueling aircraft. At that time Mucky had already begun flying “big” airplanes as a C-130 pilot. His position as a future 185th Wing commander became more plausible in 2008 when the unit he was with at the time, the 137th Wing in Oklahoma, also transitioned and began flying the KC-135 refueling aircraft.
“Its a lot of swinging through the jungle, letting go of one rope and hope I get the next one,” Muckey said, when describing the details of his career along the road back to Sioux City.
For the past several years, Muckey had been working as the Air National Guard Advisor to the Air Mobility Command Inspector General in Scott Air Force base in Illinois. While working at Scott AFB, he received word that the 185th’s current commander Colonel Larry Christensen was selected to become the Chief of Staff for the Iowa Air Guard. The wing commander vacancy was created and Muckey was asked if he would he be interested in applying for the job.
“When I was asked if I would be interested in the possibility of coming to Sioux City, I saw it as a phenomenal opportunity to come back to the home team,” Muckey said.
Muckey knew the unit in Sioux City, the kind of people who live and work in the area and the great work ethic in the organization. While he is originally from the area, Muckey said that he is egger to bring an outside perspective and offer ways to refine processes already in place. He brings new ideas to the position that offer a broad perspective from working with other Air Guard units within Air Mobility Command.
“This is an incredibly high functioning Wing, executing the mission around the globe flawlessly,” Muckey added.
At the change of command on March 2, with the passing of the 185th banner, Colonel Mark Muckey received one of those rare opportunities to begin the closing chapter on his Air Guard story right where it began, at home and among friends.
The change of command is a military tradition deeply rooted in history. Military organizations developed unique flags to signify the position of their leader. In the confusion of battle, their standard provided a guide for all to follow. Over time, these banners came to mean much more. They embodied the history of the organization, the dignity of command, and if they still stood after battle it is for victory. They were jealously and heroically guarded. Having this position of great importance, the flag was incorporated into the change of command ceremonies. The banner was exchanged in public to symbolize that the ultimate responsibility that comes with command had been passed to a new leader. For the 185th, the change of command ceremony marked the turning of a page in the units’ history book, from one accomplished and dedicated leader, to another.