MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS) -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass spoke with Air Force First Sergeant Academy students Sept. 23 at Maxwell Air Force Base Gunter Annex.
During her visit, Bass discussed the current climate of the force, the role of first sergeants and her priorities: people, readiness and culture.
Bass emphasized the tremendous influence first sergeants have on the culture of their units.
“You have an opportunity every day to help influence that culture,” Bass said. “You’ve got to influence for the better and I need you as first sergeants to be thinking with your neck up.”
As the first female chief master sergeant of the Air Force, Bass addressed the struggles of being a female in the military and the role first sergeants have in helping improve the climate of equality.
“Most of the time there are young females in your formations that don’t feel heard, you can help fix that,” she said. “Most of my male counterparts have no idea about the challenges female Airmen face because we (female Airmen) don’t really talk about them. We have policies that say zero tolerance, but we have different cultures in our Air Force that allow (it to happen). Who fixes that? All of us ... This is a full Air Force approach, and that’s why you hear me talking about ‘better together,’ because it’s going to take all of us. There is only so much I can do from my seat, but I will do everything I can, and there’s only so much you’ll be able to do as a first sergeant, but you’ve got to get after creating the culture where every Airmen feels the same way you feel today.”
Bass also shared some insight into what her and her team are doing to combat one of the most discussed topics surrounding the Air Force, mental health.
“There’s not a day that goes by when we aren’t talking about resiliency and mental health in my office,” Bass said. “We’ve got to make some changes. Some of those changes will be in the mental health policies and what we need to figure out is what are Air Force policies and what are DOD policies. That way we can fight the fight where it’s appropriate. If there are DOD policies or policies by law that are impacting our Airmen and creating that stigma that doesn’t allow them to go seek help, then we’ll fight that fight.”
During her closing remarks, Bass thanked the future first sergeants for their service and offered some advice as they move into a new stage of their careers.
“There’s a lot of stuff we have to get after,” Bass said. “We need your ideas, we want your ideas. Share those things with your chain of command. Be demanding customers of your major command first sergeants, be demanding customers of your command chiefs — make them work hard for your Airmen.”