Col. Kunkel-Meet The Commander
By Airman 1st Class Cody R. Miller, 325th Fighter Wing/Public Affairs
/ Published October 14, 2015
10/14/2015 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- From riding four-wheelers and fishing, to becoming the vice commander of the premier F-22 fighter wing in the U.S. Air Force, a new member of Team Tyndall has come a long way from his small town roots.
Meet Col. Joseph D. Kunkel, the new vice commander for the 325th Fighter Wing here at Tyndall Air Force Base.
Kunkel was first assigned as a pilot for the F-15E Strike Eagle and later transitioned to the F-22 Raptor. His combat experience includes numerous deployments in support of combat operations in the Persian Gulf and Baltic Regions. He has flown more than 145 combat hours and has dropped more than 70,000 pounds of ordnance on hostile targets.
"My family and I were hoping and praying for this job and we're extremely happy and proud to be a part of Tyndall," Kunkel said.
Kunkel is excited to be here. He believes in the 325th Fighter Wing's mission and believes in the potential for a closer connection between Tyndall and the surrounding community.
"Tyndall has a lot of great things to offer, not only in recreational activities like beaches, but also in the positive community that Tyndall shares its area with," Kunkel said. "I've never been welcomed into a community as quickly as I have been here."
Kunkel is originally from the small town of Hebron, Nebraska. He has two siblings, an older sister and a younger brother. He said as a kid he would ride four-wheelers, fish, camp and do just about anything else outdoors. Kunkel said he knew even when he was young that he wanted to fly.
"All I ever wanted to do was be a fighter pilot," Kunkel said. "I remember knowing in third grade that I wanted to fly planes and I did everything I could to make that happen."
After graduating high school, Kunkel attended the Air Force Academy and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1994. He later got a Masters in Organizational Management from the George Washington University in 2001, as well as a Masters in Strategic Studies from the Air University in 2013.
Kunkel is married with four children. He met his wife in high school and eventually married her once he graduated the academy. Kunkel said he and his wife raised their children to help others and to have a sense of duty to those in need. Kunkel said one of his favorite things to do is spend time with his family and mentor his children.
"My children have a real heart for service," Kunkel said. "Helping people is something that my wife and I have instilled in them since a very early age. I believe even if they don't enter the military like I did, they will still find a way to help our country."
Kunkel's passion for service, balance and mentorship extends not just to his family, but to his leadership philosophy in the Air Force as well.
"I've always tried to lead a balanced life and to be an example to my family and others," Kunkel said "I've got the heart of an Airman and I think I always will. Nothing brings me more joy than watching the amazing things our Airmen are able to accomplish every day."
As a final thought, Kunkel shared what he believes is the way to lead a successful Air Force career.
"Honestly just keep a smile on your face," Kunkel said "Attitude is everything, I would much rather have a troop with average talent and a great work ethic and attitude, over a troop with supreme talent and a sour attitude with no work ethic. Be that person that everyone wants to see in the morning and say 'Hi' to. Always be positive and bloom where you're planted. I'm always so proud to see our Airmen accomplish amazing things. We write our own legacies every day."