Lt. Gen. McMurry stresses measurable improvement

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Gen. Ellen M. Pawlikowski, Air Force Materiel Command commander, passed the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center flag to Lt. Gen. Robert D. McMurry in a ceremony at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, on May 2. McMurry now leads the single center responsible for total life cycle management covering all aircraft, engines, munitions and electronic systems.

Prior to assuming his current position, McMurry was commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

McMurry entered the Air Force in 1984 through the University of Texas ROTC program. He has served in a variety of engineering, program management, staff and command positions within Air Combat Command, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, AFMC, Air Force Space Command and the Missile Defense Agency.

He holds a bachelor of science in electrical engineering and master’s degrees in strategic studies, control and systems engineering, and national security and strategic studies.

McMurry has been awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal and Air Force Achievement Medal.

McMurry sat down recently with Skywrighter staff writer Amy Rollins to provide insight into his plans and priorities and allow personnel to get to know him better.

Q: How would you outline your initial goals and priorities?
McMurry: The Life Cycle Management Center Mission encompasses two big parts. One is a train, organize and equip role. We are trying to make sure we have the right people, well-trained, in the right organizations to do the work those organizations have to do. The second one is the actual program execution under the direction of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition (SAF/AQ).

The train, organize and equip role is in many respects a functional role requiring us to provide highly skilled people with acquisition, contracting, financial management and engineering expertise.

We need to do this first part of the mission really well so people can then execute the second part of the mission and buy weapon systems that meet all performance requirements, on cost and on schedule.

Our challenges are first that we need people both in numbers but also folks who are highly skilled. I’m trying to make sure our hiring and retention processes are as strong as they can be. I’m also trying to make sure requirements are well understood and that we are putting people in the priority programs where they need to be.

In that respect, we’ll continue a lot of the programs Gen. John Thompson started, with strategic resource management and make sure we are using our people to the best we can, and continue to work on the tools, processes and products.

My goal is to get to a point where we can demonstrably, with data, show that we are doing this job better every year, and that we can make the case that we are a genuine, “head of the class organizations” within the Department of Defense for doing this kind of work. I think that in many areas we are, but making that proof is key.

I want to show that our programs execute well, across the board, as we deliver extraordinary products, and be able to show that consistently.

To phrase this more succinctly, I want to make sure we have super highly qualified people doing their job extremely well and that we can prove that with measures that are objective via verifiable data.

Q: What do you wish to emphasize?
McMurry: If I were giving a message to the people of LCMC about LCMC, I would say what we do is extremely important. It really provides the capability the warfighter needs. So what we have to do is the right things the right way for the right reasons. If we do that, we’ve got a chance to be the best we can be every day.

Q: How do you describe your leadership style?
McMurry: I would say collegial. I like to cooperate with other people and find ways to work together and find ways to incrementally get better every day at what we do. I also enjoy work. We spend a lot of time at work, so I try to make coming to work both fun and challenging at the same time. If we’re not challenging ourselves we’re not trying hard enough; but we ought to be able to do that while having fun. I tend to not let things get me spun up a lot. I’m passionate and I care a great deal about our mission and what we’re going to do. I tend to not let small things turn into large, significant, emotional events. Sometimes people view that as laid-back but I try to view it as steady.

Q: Please tell us a bit about yourself.
McMurry: I tell people they need hobbies outside of work. I’m a golfer – I’ve been playing since I was 11. I also play acoustic guitar and I do a fair bit of reading. My favorite writer is Robert Parker, with his Spenser detective novels. While I could read Robert Parker all day, every day, I try to mix in some nonfiction, like biographies, with the fiction so I’m not always on the “brain candy” trend.

Q: What are you passionate about in your private life?
McMurry: I’d have to say my kids. We have three, and one just graduated from college with a business degree. Our oldest and our youngest are still in college. I love seeing them do well and succeed. Jake is 23 and a computer science student at Wright State University, Maddy just graduated and played collegiate volleyball – my other hobby was watching both daughters play volleyball – and Kellen is a junior about to transfer to my alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. She’ll be a Longhorn, studying international relations. My wife De is a retired Air Force major and has been a stay-at-home mom and thrift store worker, president of one of the officers’ spouses’ clubs and is a quilter. The American flag quilt {in my office} has the two towers in memory of Sept. 11 embedded in them, and the others {in the office} were promotion presents. The Air Force logo has 450 “fussy cut” fabrics in them. I love telling her story.

Q: Any pets?
McMurry: A miniature Aussie named Oso. I’ve learned the breed is high energy and hates sprinklers!

Q: Final thoughts?
McMurry: I’d like to talk a little more about the importance of our mission: We start by learning about a threat from the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, to determining the technology we need to beat it from the Air Force Research Laboratory to a system an operator can use to provide an advantage in a combat environment. The systems we deliver are the envy of all nations. Often those nations think they want those systems, but what they really admire is our people. Our people are truly professional from a total force perspective, whether they wear a uniform, are a civilian or a member of our industry team. Every day I get to come to work with law-abiding, well-educated, dedicated people who come to work dependably and want to do something good for their country. I’m the luckiest guy in the world to get to do that kind of work with that kind of people.