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Once a dream, now a reality

Christopher McCune, 460th Space Wing historian, explains a historical map Sept. 26, 2016, at the 460th Space Wing Headquarters building on Buckley AFB, Colo. As a historian, McCune must provide commanders with historical information to broaden their decision making ability that can affect today’s mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gabrielle Spradling/Released)

Christopher McCune, 460th Space Wing historian, explains a historical map Sept. 26, 2016, at the 460th Space Wing Headquarters building on Buckley AFB, Colo. As a historian, McCune must provide commanders with historical information to broaden their decision making ability that can affect today’s mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gabrielle Spradling/Released)


Unlike most, Christopher McCune, 460th Space Wing historian, knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. He knew his future would revolve around the past.

“On my sixth birthday, my mom and my grandparents took me to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which was called the Natural History Museum at the time,” said the Colorado native. “From that day forward, I’ve been interested in history.”

Being a six-year-old boy, his interest began with the love of dinosaurs. It wasn’t until about the fourth grade when McCune really discovered his passion.

“In the fourth grade, I learned about the American Revolution and in the fifth grade, I remember learning about the Civil War,” said McCune. “That is when I started getting really drawn into how military actions influence society in general.”

Although he was fascinated with military history, and had family members who served, joining the military was never a concrete plan.

“I seemed to constantly go back and forth with the idea of joining the military, but I always came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t for me,” said the historian. “I felt at the time that I wasn’t ready.”

When he finally decided not to enlist, McCune applied to college. After graduating from Hinkley High School, just three miles away from Buckley Air Force Base, he continued his education at Metropolitan State College of Denver where he received a bachelor’s degree in history.

After completing his first degree, he decided to take a year-long break due to feeling burnt out from taking classes year-round for so long. A year and a half later, he felt ready to go back to school, and headed to Arizona State University where he earned his master’s degree in public history.

His degree might have become more specialized, but his passion remained the same. Throughout college and graduate school, he continued to take classes dedicated to military history.

“I really focused on the military history side of my classes,” he said. “Those were the classes that really held my interest in school. I took a class on World War I and then I took a class that focused on every war from World War I to Vietnam.”

After graduate school, he gave himself a year to find a permanent job in the museum field. Before he knew it, the year was over and he was still without a full-time job.

“I knew I was at a point where I could only do one of three things,” said McCune. “I could keep doing what I was doing, which was working as a seasonal historian with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, I could possibly go back to school for my Ph.D., or I could join the military.”

Tired of working only full-time during the summer and waiting tables at a restaurant during the other seasons, while trying to pay off more than $20,000 of student debt, he made his decision and enlisted in the Air Force at the age of 27.

On November 10, 2003, McCune was on his way to Basic Military Training for the U.S. Air Force. After graduating from BMT, he went on to technical training at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., before being assigned to the 607th Combat Communications Squadron at Camp Humphreys, Republic of South Korea as a computer systems controller.

Because his first assignment was a short-tour location, McCune was given the opportunity to create a dream sheet for his follow-on assignment. Being a Colorado native, choosing his next location was simple.

“I put Buckley AFB as my top choice for my follow-on base,” said McCune. “I was selected for the slot and in May of 2005, I was back in Aurora. I was back home stationed with the 460th Space Communications Squadron.”

Just over two years later, he would find himself in yet another tough dilemma. It was time for the senior airman, staff sergeant select, to decide if he was going to re-enlist or if he would separate from the U.S Air Force.

Realizing that the career field just wasn’t for him, he separated from the military after his term was completed. On a whim, he applied to be a historian with the Air Force, a career field that began civilianizing in 2003, but didn’t expect to hear back on job openings anytime soon.

From there, he would go on to work as a tier one customer service representative for a storage company until July 2008, when he was offered another job as a contractor for the Air Force. Essentially, he would have the same job he had while serving. However, this time, he would work in Iraq.

Anticipating that his current job was probably not going to last much longer, he decided to accept the contract. On the very same day he was going to accept the job, his life took a sudden turn. He would be offered the dream job he applied for months prior.

“I had interviewed earlier in the month with the 58th Special Operations Wing, but I honestly thought I had blown the interview because I didn’t have a special operations background; I was a tech controller,” said McCune. “They called me about five minutes before I was going to walk out the door to go fax this letter of acceptance and asked me if I was still interested in the job as their historian. Needless to say, I didn’t send in the acceptance letter. I spent the whole next day nervously refreshing my email, and I finally found that I was given the job.”

In September of 2008, he packed his belongings and headed to Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, to begin working the job he spent his whole life striving for.

After working there for over six years, getting married and starting a family in Albuquerque, he decided that he wanted to expand his experience and began looking for positions at other bases. During a deployment in 2014, he saw there was an opening at Buckley AFB and applied.

In March of 2015, McCune found himself once again coming back home.

“I’m really grateful to have this position at Buckley,” said McCune. “Not only because I grew up down the street or because I was stationed here as an Airman, but being able to learn the history of this base and telling the story of what our folks are doing here now with our missile warning mission.”

Since he began working here, McCune’s personality, work ethic and experience have been a tremendous addition to the 460th Space Wing.

McCune wrote a study titled “Bring Me Men to Match My Mountains: Buckley Field in World War II,” which examines Buckley’s activation and development during the Second World War. This study includes the several training facilities held on the base during World War II, which included armament training, arctic survival training and a secondary location for basic training, as well as the roles African-Americans and women held on Buckley that led to the Civil Rights Movement in later decades.

“Chris is a very tenacious leader,” said Col. Scott Romberger, 460th Space Wing vice commander. “He’s aggressive, he’s hungry and he wants to do well within the Air Force Space Command by gathering information and telling our story. We think very highly of him and we are extremely happy to have him on our team. I’ve worked with many historians, and I would put Christopher McCune at the top of the heap.”

His hunger and dedication as a historian has led him to many accomplishments at Buckley AFB. His special study drew from more than 5,000 pages of primary source documents and over 90 newspaper articles, while his 2015 460th Space Wing history earned him a special recognition from the Air Force Space Command historian.

McCune’s 2015 history, which totaled 120 pages, included an 83-page narrative and 13 appendices, was rated outstanding, and set the standard for other historians within the command.

Recently, he has been dedicating his work towards covering the implementation of the Space-Based Infrared System’s Block 10 mission consolidation phase, Overhead Persistent Infrared Battlespace Awareness Center and facility replacement efforts. His work has provided an overview of developments toward future geostationary satellite and Highly Elliptical Orbit payload launches, as well as 460th Medical Group relocation efforts.

History is made every day at Buckley, and it is McCune that ensures the details are accurately recorded. As an outstanding professional in the eyes of his peers and leaders, McCune has lived up to the future he envisioned as a child. Although his history is recorded, the future for this historian remains unknown. However, if his past is any indication, his future will surely be bright.

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