A day in the life of CMSAF, from one of Beale’s A1C’s eyes

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jason W. Cochran
  • 9RW/PA

In my experience, when junior airmen are made to sit down to talk with senior leadership there’s a bit of grumbling about it and maybe even some nodding off. When the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (CMSAF) was here, that picture could not be further from the truth.

When Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass spoke to a room full of Airmen, I saw them be more invested in what she was saying than the free pizza they were given for showing up, which was clearly evident when they lined up, 50 at a time, to take a selfie with her.

As a public affairs Airman, I’ve seen more than my fair share of distinguished visitors focused on capturing the engagements and immersions, but this visit was different. I was with Bass and “Team 19” for everything, whether that be 0500 at the gym to checking emails to seemingly endless briefs about the mission, I was there.

Team 19 is what Bass likes to call the group that travels with her. For Beale, the group was made up of Chief Master Sgt. Nathaniel Perry, Air Force First Sergeant Special Duty Manager, Master Sgt. Julia Baron, special assistant to CMSAF, and Master Sgt. Jarad Denton, public affairs advisor to CMSAF.

In short, Team 19’s day is busy. Apart from bathroom breaks and a couple minutes to hurriedly eat some wings, there was not a single minute where Bass wasn’t engaging with someone to some degree. Even right as they got off of their plane and onto the bus there were briefers waiting for them as they drove down the flightline.

Any time that could have been spent taking a breather, Bass filled with Airmen who wanted a chance to talk to her and get a photo. This extended even to her time at the gym when an Airman, who most definitely did not expect to see the chief doing crunches at the Beale fitness center, nearly had a heart attack out of surprise. Bass stopped what she was doing to talk to this Airman, learn his story and of course get a photo with him.

That was the odd thing to me: why would this person with so many important things to do take all of this time to talk to these Airmen of all ranks and backgrounds? I got my answer when Bass was talking to some of the senior noncommissioned officers from around Beale.

Bass asked senior leaders, “What is the number one thing that the airmen below them want in leadership?”

The leaders suggested factors like transparency and accountability. Bass replied “Those are all good ideas, but not what I’m talking about. The number one thing our Airmen want from us is simply just to care.”

Giving these Airmen a chance to tell their story and to grab a quick photo is Bass’ way of practicing what she preaches and caring for her Airmen. In a moment of relative respite while checking emails she told me “When I feel cared for by my leadership I perform better. And more than that, I always get surprised by talking to these Airmen. Learning their stories and what makes them tick is just amazing.”

In essence, from the second their jet comes to a stop to the minute they leave, Team 19 is learning, listening and communicating with Airmen of all ranks and units. Showing those Airmen their leadership cares and conveying what is going on at the very top of our leadership.