Expeditionary Center history: Family members recall the man behind the award -- Reynolds A. Kuntzman

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center Public Affairs
Fourteen years ago, Tech. Sgt. Reynolds A. Kuntzman came here to a brand new organization - the Air Mobility Warfare Center. He was among the 50 initial cadre of Airmen moving from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., who would make up the 421st Ground Combat Readiness Squadron.

With nearly 16 years of security forces experience at the time, Sergeant Kuntzman helped lay the groundwork for what is now the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, and his former squadron now named the 421st Combat Training Squadron.

Less than a year into his new assignment teaching air base ground defense in the Phoenix Ace Combat Readiness Exercise and Evaluation Course, he died. The date was June 9, 1995, and it came as a shock to his family, unit and many others.

"It was a hard time for all of us," said his wife Valerie Kuntzman, 55, who visited the center in August along with Sergeant Kuntzman's mother and youngest son. "It was something we didn't see coming."

Nicknamed "Pappy," Sergeant Kuntzman was, as his wife described, a "caring and hard-working Airman." Those values were recognized by the center's leadership who created an award in his honor - the Reynolds A. Kuntzman Duty Performance Award. The award is given annually to an Expeditionary Center Airman in the grades of E-1 through E-6, recognizing superior duty performance in support of the center's mission and community.

"My husband got his nickname in England," Valerie Kuntzman said, "because he was one of the older guys and had four children. He was also the guy who loved to take care of Airmen in his unit."

His mother, Helen Kuntzman, 87, said her son was always a hard-worker and great to be around. Born in De Graff, Ohio, in July 1952, Sergeant Kuntzman later moved with his family to Ansonia, Ohio, and graduated from Ansonia High School in 1970. "He was very active in school and after graduating he left for a factory job," she said.

Sergeant Kuntzman worked at that factory job until 1979 and then decided to join the Air Force. "He went into the Air Force because the job security wasn't good," Mrs. Kuntzman said. "He wanted something steady because he had a family to care for."

Once in the Air Force, he joined the security forces career field and moved on from there. From 1980 to 1983, he was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Then, from 1983 to 1989 he served at RAF Upper Heyford, England. After England, he moved to Little Rock AFB, and was there from 1989 to 1994, before moving to Fort Dix in October 1994.

"He enjoyed his work," Mrs. Kuntzman said. "I mean he absolutely loved it. He actually started in the air base ground defense type of work over in England. And then when he found out about Little Rock he put in for that assignment. It's just always been the fact that he absolutely loved what he did. He liked getting out in the field, going out with the guys, and, there were many days where we had a house full of Airmen."

Sergeant Kuntzman's dedication to his country, family and fellow Airmen came as no surprise to his mother. She said he was always willing to go the extra mile because "he loved people."

"His grandfather, Karl Albert Kuntzman, was signed up to go overseas at the end of World War I for the Army, but never went because the war ended," Helen Kuntzman said. "His willingness to serve was there in our family history. He also was someone who always cared about people - he was always willing to help someone."

The Kuntzman Award was first given out in 1997 to Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Glover. In 2007, it was awarded to Master Sgt. Jennifer Mastan of the center's Mobility Operations School.

"It was certainly an honor and a privilege to win that award because it recognizes hard work and performance," said Sergeant Mastan, who was stationed at Little Rock for part of the same time Sergeant Kuntzman was there. "When you learn about who Sergeant Kuntzman was, it makes getting that award even more special."

Jeremy Kuntzman, 29, and the youngest of Sergeant Kuntzman's four children, said his father was his and his siblings' inspiration to serve in the military. He completed an eight-year enlistment in the Navy and his brothers, Navy Chief Petty Officer Gabriel Kuntzman and Air Force Capt. Joshua Kuntzman, are still serving.

"Up until I joined, the military was all I ever knew," Jeremy Kuntzman said. "Joining was something I wanted to do and learn a trade for the future."

Looking back, Jeremy Kuntzman said he has nothing but the best memories of his father. "He was definitely a great man and a role model that anybody could look up to," he said.

For Valerie Kuntzman, her husband was someone who not only inspired her and their children, but someone who was an inspiration to all. "He cared for his family and his country," Mrs. Kuntzman said. "He had a strong belief in God and believed in working hard and being responsible. And, most of all, he cared about people. Isn't that what we want every Airman to be about?"

The next Kuntzman Award will be given to an Expeditionary Center Airman befitting of the values of the award description. For Helen, Valerie and Jeremy Kuntzman, that is a tall order to fill.

"One of us will be here when the next award is given," Mrs. Kuntzman said. "We are very proud to have this award named after him. Those who win it in the future, and who've won it in the past should stand proud. He made us proud and they should be as well."