Chief Master Sgt. JoAnne S. Bass was selected June 19 to become the 19th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, becoming the first woman in history to serve as the highest-ranking noncommissioned member of a U.S. military service.
In selecting Bass, incoming Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown said Bass brings skills, temperament, and experience that the job requires and an outlook on leadership that meshes with his own.
“I could not be more excited to work side-by-side with Chief Bass,” Brown said.
“She has unique skills that will help us both lead the Total Force and live up to the high expectations of our Airmen,” he said. “She is a proven leader who has performed with distinction at every step of her accomplished career. I have no doubt that Chief Bass will provide wise counsel as we pursue and implement initiatives to develop and empower Airmen at all levels.”
Brown, who will become the 22nd Chief of Staff in August, said selecting the correct candidate to serve as chief master sergeant was one of his most critical decisions in advance of his becoming Chief. The search to replace outgoing Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright was both broad and rigorous.
Bass emerged as the consensus choice from a group of more than a dozen finalists from across the Air Force’s global operation, officials said. The finalists were selected based on breadth of experience, recommendations from senior commanders, and performance across each candidate’s Air Force career.
“I’m honored and humbled to be selected as the 19th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, and follow in the footsteps of some of the best leaders our Air Force has ever known,” Bass said. “The history of the moment isn’t lost on me; I’m just ready to get after it. And I’m extremely grateful for and proud of my family and friends who helped me along the way.”
When asked about the job and her partnership with Brown, Bass acknowledged that strong “chemistry” is important and the standard was set by Wright and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.
Brown, she said, is “the kind of leader we’ve all wanted to work with. I’m excited for the opportunity to serve as his chief and his wingman. Together, we will do everything we can to ensure that every Airman and their families are taken care of and feel like they are a part of our Air Force family.”
She added, “CMSAF Wright and Team 18 have set a pretty high bar, but I know that Team 19 will rise to the occasion.
“… My job will be to help set the stage for individual and team development, so our brothers and sisters are healthy, engaged, and ready for the fight!” Bass said.
Wright endorsed the choice as well.
“I’ve known Jo for many years and watched closely as she’s guided Team 18 and led her own teams to great success,” he said. “This is a historic moment for our Air Force and she is a phenomenal leader who’ll bring new ideas and her own style to the position. She’ll do great things for our Airmen and she’ll blaze her own trail as our CMSAF.”
Bass is clearly prepared for the new assignment.
She currently serves the command chief master sergeant, Second Air Force, at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. In her current assignment, Bass is the senior enlisted leader and advisor to the commander on all matters relating to the professional development, proper utilization, and the readiness of the enlisted corps.
The command consists of four training wings, 18 groups with 76 operating locations worldwide, in support of 13,000 enlisted, officers, civilians, contractors and 36,000 basic military trainees per year.
In addition, Second Air Force is home to more than 260 Air Force specialties through 2,300 courses graduating 150,000 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and international students annually in various fields including financial management, security forces, cyber, personnel, weather, civil engineer, and aircraft maintenance, while providing 93% of the Air Force’s initial skills training.
She began her career in 1993 with a posting at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, and has served at Ramstein Air Base, as the command chief master sergeant for the 17th Training Wing at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, and at the Pentagon as chief, Air Force Enlisted Developmental Education.
Her service awards include “Distinguished Graduate” from the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy in 2009 and the 2011 Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Award for the 86th Operations Group.
By coincidence, Bass also shares two notable similarities with her soon-to-be partner, Brown. Both come from Army families. Bass lived in several overseas and stateside locations, prior to entering the Air Force. Brown’s father is a retired Army colonel.
Brown is the first African American in history to be confirmed as a chief of staff for any branch of the U.S. military. Bass will be the first woman to serve as the senior enlisted leader for a military service.
When Brown and Bass move to their new assignments, they will confront an Air Force in transition. The force is moving from a heavy focus on combatting terrorism to one that must be prepared to confront China, Russia, and other peer adversaries. Each will be called on to continue the Air Force’s efforts to improve resiliency across the force and reduce suicides.
They also will be responsible for addressing racial disparity in the Air Force.
Across all those issues and others, Bass, as chief master sergeant of the Air Force, will provide direction for the enlisted force and will represent their interests.
Like previous CMSAFs, she will be the public face of Air Force enlisted personnel and those in all levels of government. As noted by Brown, she will be a personal adviser to the chief of staff and Department of the Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett on issues regarding the welfare, readiness, morale, and proper utilization and progress of more than 410,000 enlisted members.