JoAnne Bass will become the 19th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force on August 14, and in doing so, will make history as the first woman and Asian-American to serve as the highest-ranking enlisted member of the U.S. military‘s Air Force.
Bass is currently the Command Chief Master Sergeant of the Second Air Force, where she is the “senior enlisted leader and advisor to the commander on all matters impacting the professional development, proper utilization, and the readiness of the enlisted corps,” according to her military biography.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bass Was A Military Brat
According to the Air Force announcement, Bass grew up all over the country and came from a military family. Bass entered the Air Force in 1993, according to her biography, and was promoted to chief master sergeant in 2013.
She attended Airmen Leadership School in 1997 and she earned an Associated Degree in Airport Resource Management in 2000 and earned her Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics in 2005. Bass has a dozen education credits to her name, including Chief Master Sergeant Leadership Seminar in Germany in 2013 and Keystone Command Senior Enlisted Leader Course in 2017.
She has been taking assignments since 1993 in North Carolina, Texas and Germany, notably as Chief at the Pentagon‘s Air Force Enlisted Developmental Education. She has won five awards — including a Defense Meritorious Service Medal and Air Force Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters — and other achievements — including 1995 Airman of the Year of the 74th Fighter Squadron, 2009 Distinguished Graduate from the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy and 2011 Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year from the 86th Operations Group.
2. Bass Will Be Working With The Air Force’s First Black Chief of Staff
Bass was selected by General Charles Q. Brown Jr., a command pilot with more than 2,900 hours of flight and 130 hours of combat experience, who was seeking a replacement for the outgoing Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the Air Force magazine reported.
Brown made the selection as one of his first decisions as chief of staff, which he is set to become later this summer. With Bass and Brown at the helm, the Air Force will become the first military branch with a black chief of staff and female enlisted chief.
Once she takes the post in August, Bass will become the first and highest-ranking female and Asian-American enlisted member of the Air Force.
Local Hawaiian TV station KHON-2 also reported that Bass was from Mililani, Hawaii and Air Force magazine reported that her mother was Korean. The highest-ranking female Asian-American in the military in 2019 was Air Force Major General Sharon K. G. Dunbar, according to the Veterans Association.
3. Before the Promotion, Bass Served As the Command Chief Master Sergeant of the Second Air Force
As command chief master sergeant at Kessler Air Force Base in Mississippi, Bass is responsible for four training wings, 18 groups and 76 international locations, according to the Air Force. She is responsible for 13,000 enlisted officers, civilians and contractors and 36,000 basic military trainees on an annual basis.
After enlisted members of the Air Force make it through basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Kessler Air Force Base is one of the five locations where they go next for technical training. According to the Second Air Force website, such facilities have instructors who “conduct technical training in specialties such as aircraft maintenance, civil engineering, medical services, computer systems, security forces, air traffic control, personnel, intelligence, firefighting, and space and missile operations.”
4. Bass Described As ‘Compassionate’ And A ‘Phenomenal Leader’
Bass has received praise from many top military officials.
Chief Master Sgt. Lee Hoover, her colleague since 2016, described her as someone of intelligence and strong character, according to the Air Force Times. “She is a smart chief who understands the issues affecting enlisted airmen. She’s also a compassionate person who cares for airmen and their families, genuinely listens when someone approaches her, and wants to know what she can do to help them,” the Times reported Hoover as saying.
Wright, the previous Air Force Chief Master Sergeant, also praised Bass:
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.
Brown said that he “could not be more excited” about working with Chief Bass. “She has unique skills that will help us both lead the Total Force and live up to the high expectations of our Airmen,” he told the Air Force. “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.”
5. Bass New Role Will Entail Focusing On ‘Great Power Competition’
Bass, chosen from a dozen finalists around the world, said she is humbled by the promotion and ready for the challenge:
“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 … 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.”
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 will be instrumental in moving the Air Force’s focus from terrorism to combating “peer adversaries” such as China and Russia, the Air Force reported.
“The service must also navigate the challenges posed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic while balancing an expensive slate of modernization programs, building a more equitable and diverse workforce, and standing up the new Space Force,” Air Force magazine reported regarding the Air Force’s new focuses.
According to the Air Force Times, Bass will also focus on “improving resiliency, reducing suicide, and improving diversity and racial equality in the Air Force.” Bass will also work with Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett to improve the condition, morale and improvement of the Air Force’s 410,000 active, guard and reserve enlisted airmen.