Ramstein Air Base builds leaders. Serving as the global gateway to Europe and beyond, and home to a host wing containing seven groups and 30 squadrons that provide the only airlift, airdrop and aeromedical evacuation flying operations for U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa, the operations tempo remains high, forging ready and resilient leaders.
Seeing these leaders return to the base, even if just to visit, is always an honor and a privilege, especially when that individual is now the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.
On her way to becoming the 19th chief appointed to the highest noncommissioned officer position in the service, CMSAF JoAnne S. Bass had two five-year assignments at Ramstein, once as a noncommissioned officer and once as a senior noncommissioned officer, including her time as the 86th Operations Group superintendent.
During a visit here Nov. 29 through Dec. 1, Bass spent time walking through familiar locations and even running into some familiar faces. She met with various units, discussed the successes and challenges faced with Operation Allies Welcome, checked in on day-to-day operations and hosted an all-call.
“There is so much to love about the region here,” Bass said. “I think the best experiences about living in Germany are the people and the rich friendships that you build through the experiences of living with your German neighbors, side-by-side. We learned to slow life down a little bit, enjoy company, enjoy our food and enjoy life.”
After speaking with Airmen from multiple units about their roles during OAW and their personal experiences with the operation, Bass quickly learned about the overwhelming amount of support that poured in from the surrounding community.
“There are villages everywhere where everybody came together wanting to support each other,” Bass said. “Even on this base, I talked to so many of the local nationals who have worked here for 30, 40, 50 years. It’s because of those bonds and the relationships they have built that it’s really one team.”
As she toured hangars, offices and the air traffic control tower, Bass greeted Airmen with notable sincerity. Perhaps another German characteristic Bass picked up during her time at Ramstein, whenever she greets anyone, she looks them in the eye, and kindly asks how they are doing. She’s not looking for a casual ‘fine,’ or ‘good, how are you?’ She wants details and she is ready to listen. She truly cares about what’s going on in their life.
“My focus is really on people, readiness and culture, but specifically the people piece,” Bass said. “I’m focused on how we make sure that we have the right people and the right talent serving, so that in 2029 or 2049 we don’t have another nation becoming a world dominant power.”
Bass also discussed Air Force initiatives, lines of effort and plans for the future.
“So, what am I thinking about all the time?” Bass asked. “Where is my headspace, and where’s the headspace of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown and the Secretary of the Air Force? I’ll tell you there is not a day that goes by that we are not utterly focused on strategic competition. What’s my mind focused on? It is 100% focused on any bad actor who wants to harm our nation. My hope is that every Airman, whether you’re E-1 all the way to O-10, really understands the gravity of what’s going on in today’s landscape.”
Pointing out that the Air Force has changed since she first joined, Bass made sure that Airmen realized in addition to the conventional military domain focuses of air, land and sea, today’s military is also heavily focused on information, cyber and space.
“You have to have a strong air, land and sea component, but now all of a sudden, we have these new domains that are a fact of life,” Bass said. “Those new domains are information, cyber and space, and if we lose in any of those domains, we can never get after air, land and sea.”
Bass asked Airmen to consider how they will help the Air Force be successful in the long-run and to really think about Gen. Brown’s challenge to all Airmen to “accelerate change or lose.”
“We need to take a holistic look at how we evaluate talent in today’s Air Force because we’re focused on the long game and how we have the right talent in our Air Force,” Bass said. “My ask to people is while you’re serving in an all-volunteer force, all I ask you to do is move the ball and make the Air Force better.”
Bass ended every speaking engagement thanking Airmen and their families for their service and sacrifice, “It has been a pleasure spending time with all of you. Thanks for what you guys do.”