Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass took over as the 19th senior enlisted leader of the service on Aug. 14, marking a period of change and promising more diversity and inclusion in the ranks.
Bass’ appointment makes the Air Force the first military service to have both a woman and an Asian American in the senior enlisted role, shortly after Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. became the first Black officer to lead a branch of the Armed Forces.
“This is a historic moment for you,” Bass said to Airmen of all ranks watching the ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, Md. “I encourage you to stay passionate, determined, purposeful, and keep running your race. And together we will continue to make meaningful and lasting history as our force charts and navigates new domains.
“As we reflect on the past, we must also look forward to cultivating an environment filled with innovation, with collaboration, moving toward our future, a future where we value the elements that make us the greatest Air Force in the world. … A future where we embrace true diversity and forge an inclusive culture where our Airmen’s talents, what they bring to the fight, are embedded deep in our roots.”
Bass comes into the job having served as the command chief master sergeant of 2nd Air Force. She has previously been the chief of Air Force Enlisted Developmental Education, the command chief master sergeant of the 17th Training Wing at Goodfellow Air Base, Texas, and the superintendent at the 86th Operations Group at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. She started her Air Force career in operations system management, range scheduling, and as a noncommissioned officer in charge and operations scheduler with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron.
She said she only expected to serve four “quick” years in the Air Force and then get out, and figure out what she wanted to do in life. As Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Bass said she will work to “cultivate and develop” talent and ensure that the service’s processes and policies help build “the force that we need.”
Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett said Bass has a “deep background” in special operations and international experience, while also most recently working to develop Airmen at Air Education and Training Command.
“JoAnne has championed Airmen development through programs to improve training and readiness, including basic training, technical training, and medical and distance learning courses,” Barrett said. “She advised the commander of 2nd Air Force on the instruction of 93 percent of the force. Chief Bass, your extraordinary record of service has prepared you well to serve as the 19th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.”
Brown, speaking of his new top adviser, said she has the “passion, skills, and the strength of character we need to lead us to face head on the demanding challenges of today and the future.”
Bass took over the job from the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, who is retiring after about 31 years in service. Wright thanked his family, the Air Force, and now retired Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein for standing by him “through this journey.”
“I would never have imagined receiving the type of love and support that I have throughout my time as Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force,” Wright said. “I love hearing your stories, I love doing my best to make a difference, I love working alongside you, digging ditches with you, jumping out of airplanes with you. I love everything about this job.”
At the ceremony, Barrett unveiled a new award, called the “Goldfein-Wright Inclusive Leadership Award,” which will be given for the command team that best fosters an inclusive environment. The award is based on discussions of diversity and inclusion Wright and Goldfein started in recent months amid civil unrest about racism across the country.
Goldfein said of all the personnel decisions he made during his tenure as Chief of Staff, “none was more important than the choice of my wingman for the journey.” While the two didn’t get everything done that they intended to, “we got a heck of a lot done together. And we always found a way to make it fun.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Aug. 14 at 3:33 p.m. EDT to include tweets from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr and Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett.