The new Commander of the 42nd Air Base Wing at Maxwell-Gunter AFB, Col. Ryan E. Richardson describes his role as intense but rewarding. He reaps those rewards by leaning hard into the core
component of his leadership style: trust.
When and why did you join the Air Force? I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the USAF on December 12, 1998, entering “extended active duty” in April of the following year. As an Air Force “brat,” I was blessed with a front row seat to righteous patriotism, service and the Combat Air Forces. While my pursuit of flying ended with a thoughtful decision memorandum from the Chief of Staff of the Air Force denying my final waiver for visual acuity (20/20 vision), my passion for Airmen and an emerging role in Combat Support continued, at mach. Bottom line, I love this nation and am grateful for the opportunity to serve its defense.
What are your primary duties/responsibilities as Commander of the 42nd Air Base Wing? We’re talking about it in rather simple terms as a leadership team: “Prepare for Combat and Prepare Others for the Same.” The Installation Commander is responsible to lead all base operating, infrastructure, and services support for 42,000 active duty, reserve, civilian and contract personnel, students and families at Maxwell-Gunter. It is very much a city inside the city, with unique roles and responsibilities laid upon the servicemen and women to maintain readiness for agile global deployment; and to posture our 40-plus mission partner portfolios for the same level of mission success. I don’t lead this formation alone and am blessed to be flanked by incredible leaders, peers and teammates. Together, we are responsible to the forces and families assigned to Maxwell-Gunter, as well as to city of Montgomery. Our partnership is the envy of many Air Force installations.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work? Command opportunities are finite and fleeting, each a blessing and none guaranteed. I enjoy most being able to contribute to the growth of our airmen and drive support in the direction of their families. Each has a story; each is unique and exceptional. Each is a patriot! Command offers officers unique authorities to get after the craft of leading and managing, but my favorite “tool” is not one exclusive to the command position: TRUST. I love watching what Airmen (military and civilian alike) can do with trust; it’s the currency of winning.
What do you see as the most challenging part of your job? Command, as with many roles on and off the installation, is a full-contact sport. It’s intense, rewarding and often all-consuming. Following each previous command, I have lamented (to a degree) not being able to spend as much time with fellow Airmen, their families, my family and community partners as I would have liked. Upon further reflection, maybe that sense of things wasn’t fair or accurate, but a new command brings to light the opportunity, once again, to cherish every moment granted to invest in people. I’m challenged every day to balance, level up and do so.
What’s one thing about the 42nd ABW you think Montgomerians should know? I think most Montgomerians would find the pattern of life and service on the installation interesting. There is a natural curiosity about what goes on here, and while some of the institutions/activities mirror those beyond the fence line, many are unique to military way of life and living on an air patch. We’re working toward hosting an Airshow & Open House in 2024 and are hopeful we’ll be able to deliver. Those events are great opportunities to share our lives and service on base with our fellow Montgomerians.
What are your interests outside of work? My wife, Lisa and I are both former NCAA athletes and are blessed with an active family. Right now, that activity includes still getting settled, but we’re quickly transitioning into activities we enjoy with the kiddos.
Putting the Home in Home Base
“I have been coming through Montgomery for 20-plus years now. While I served both of my in-resident Professional Military Education tours in the National Capital Region, I’ve always felt as though the Maxwell-Gunter campus and Montgomery have played host to my most informative professional development experiences. My wife and I are excited to call Montgomery home, and with our oldest son, Gunnar, graduating from high school here next year, we’ll add the first of many significant personal experiences to that list. The welcome has been incredible.”