Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright called on Airmen to work together and treat each other with dignity in a divisive time, in his parting letter to the service, shared one day before his Aug. 14 retirement.
“Trust that we are all worthy individuals, who deserve respect and deserve to serve with dignity,” Wright wrote in the letter. “No matter what the challenges we face, we can always overcome them if we are united. Please don’t let those who are set on dividing us win. Don’t let them drive us apart.”
Wright, who has served as the Air Force’s top enlisted leader since 2017, will hand over the job to the next Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, JoAnne S. Bass, during a ceremony Aug. 14 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Bass, who previously was the command chief master sergeant of 2nd Air Force, will be the first female enlisted leader of any military service.
“We leave knowing that Jo will forge a path centered on the principal that Airmen must come first,” Wright wrote. “That’s who she is at her core … taking care of Airmen is what drives her.”
In the letter, Wright thanks his support team, his wife Tonya, and former Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, who he served beside in leading the Air Force. “I am especially grateful for the late-night talks, the laughs, and the tough conversations he never shied away from,” he wrote.
He also thanks the broader Air Force for the, at times, unusual support he has received—for example, the jokes about being “Enlisted Jesus.”
“Thank you for showing us the love,” he wrote. “I never thought I’d have the distinct honor of being immortalized in memes, but I have to admit, they really made me smile.”
Through his tenure, Wright worked to give Airmen their time back, make changes to career evaluation to focus on potential, retain skill, and reward innovation. His time saw the end of enlisted performance reports for the Airmen first class rank and distance professional military education. However, he said it wasn’t a “perfect game” and there’s still work left.
“At the end of the day I know we won’t be remembered for the policies we updated, or the programs we put in place,” Wright wrote. “… I hope you think of us as good people who cared about Airmen, and as a team who tried to make things a little better. We valued progress over perfection—and woke up every day to do whatever we could to help Airmen succeed and to reach their goals.”
As he retires, Wright said his work with Airmen has “changed me forever.”
“While I’ll put on the uniform for the last time this week, I will always be an Airman,” he wrote. “Although I won’t serve in a position with the power to affect change on an enterprise level, I hope to always be a champion for you and your families.”