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NEWS | Nov. 4, 2022

The Warrant Officer Way

By Sgt. Christopher Saunders, Missouri Army National Guard 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Patrick Muenks grew up on his mother's family farm in Linn, Missouri, where his family has been for multiple generations. He recalls having a great childhood surrounded by many aunts, uncles, and cousins with his five other siblings.
Though he longed for a place off the farm.

“As a young man, my sights were set on a bigger picture. Even Missouri seemed too small to set my sights on,” said CW5 (Ret.) Patrick Muenks, Missouri National Guard.

Military service was a common topic among his family. His grandfather served in WWI and was wounded in action; four of his uncles and a cousin also served. Muenks’s father joined the Missouri Army National Guard later in life and worked as a surface maintainer in the full-time dual-status technician program. His father later became an aircraft technician and a crew chief.

During the winter of 1980, Muenks's last year of high school, he enlisted in the Missouri National Guard on the split-training option. This program allowed him to delay basic training and advanced individual training (AIT) and not interfere with his plans to start college.

In the summer of 1981, Muenks attended basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Then the following summer, he attended AIT as a 71L, Administrative Specialist. Due to his college education in business administration, Muenks was proficient enough in the course material that he was able to finish his training requirements early and was assigned additional duties. However, Muenks says his experiences at AIT were not of a professional Army. There were many drill sergeants that he looked up to, but many also made him question whether he wanted to be a part of the non-commissioned officer corps (NCO.)

"I felt I had a good sense of what was right and wrong,” said Muenks. “What it meant to be a person of character. I didn’t feel that was being exhibited." Muenks decided that if he were going to impact negative situations, he would need to seek a career as a commissioned officer, which eventually led him to the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC); a program that pays for your tuition while going to college, and also teaches you the necessary leadership attributes needed to become a commissioned officer.

Muenks’s father was an influential figure in his life and worked as a full-time technician at the Aviation Support Facility Jefferson City Memorial Airport. Therefore, growing up, he was often surrounded by his parent’s friends and acquaintances who were pilots; many of whom Muenks looked up to. When he reached the end of ROTC, it was time for Muenks to select an officer branch.

“I had a conversation with my dad, and I decided that in order to have a long and fulfilling career in the Guard, I needed to fly.”

From then on, Muenks decided he would do everything he could to stand out and make flight school selection.

“Knowing I was in a position to help my neighbors and community during a crisis has always appealed to me. I like the concept of the Minuteman; being a citizen in my community and being able to assist or defend at a moment’s notice,” said Muenks.

About a year into his enlistment in the Missouri National Guard, Muenks was selected to attend flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He was then assigned to the 868th Medical Detachment (Air Ambulance) in Jefferson City, Mo.

Muenks graduated college with a major in vocational agriculture, and in 1988 he took a job developing and teaching one of the first at-risk youth recovery programs in Rolla, Mo. A year later, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education noticed Muenks's talent and offered him a position as the area supervisor.

With a growing family of his own, Muenks decided Linn, Mo. was where he wanted to plant roots.“I wanted my kids to grow up in a similar environment as I did because I knew the character I developed helped me to deal with anything life could bring,” said Muenks.

Muenks said the most significant challenge he had while serving was knowing that he and others would be operating in environments that expose them to hazardous situations. For example, while deployed with the 1267th Medical Company, he experienced the loss of an aircraft and crew during an air movement to port. In a separate incident, three Guard members from Nebraska and Missouri lost their lives after an aircraft crash.

"Being involved in the search, recovery, investigation, and continued deployment of assets was without question the most challenging thing I have ever faced,” said Muenks.

Upon returning home to Missouri, Muenks became employed by Ozarks Technical Community College as an administrator for their high school technical programs. In 1999 Muenks was invited to take a position as an executive director at Linn Tech Community College.

In 2003 Muenks deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom for 15 months. He began working full-time for the Guard when he returned home from deployment. He took a flight instructor and test pilot position at the Christopher S. Bond Aviation Support Facility at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

He served in various aviation positions and, nearly 15 years later, was chosen to serve on the command team as the State Command Chief Warrant Officer for the Missouri National Guard and a senior advisor to the Missouri National Guard Adjutant General.

Muenks has had a career few have had the opportunity to experience; he’s gone from an enlisted private to a second lieutenant and finally a warrant officer. When reflecting, he says the most rewarding part of his career came as a warrant officer.

“The reason for that is because the warrant officer is someone who is technically advising, who works to hone their craft. A warrant officer does not need to be placed in the limelight, is humble, proficient, competent, and works behind the scenes to make their command and team successful,” said Muenks.

Muenks says the most rewarding moments of his career were when he had the opportunity to coach, lead, and mentor Guard members. He says he's learned just as much from young soldiers early in their career than those senior in rank, time, and service.

After 41 years of service, over 4600 military rotary-wing flight hours, four overseas deployments, and numerous key leadership positions, Muenks retired on Sept. 22, 2022, at the same Aviation Support Facility his father worked at years before.

Muenks questioned whether he wanted a low-key ceremony to mark the end of his military career. Still, he realized this ceremony was more about honoring those who served before him, those that mentored, guided, and supported him through the years.

On his way to the next chapter, his one piece of advice for any Guard member currently serving would be to not limit yourself based on a fear of failure.