In US Military First, the Air Force Has Picked a Woman as Top Enlisted Leader

Chief Master Sgt. JoAnne Bass engages in conversation with Airmen at the Keesler Professional Development Center.
Chief Master Sgt. JoAnne Bass engages in conversation with Airmen at the Keesler Professional Development Center during an immersion tour on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Aug. 23, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

The next top Air Force enlisted leader is a woman, the first to ever serve as the highest ranking enlisted non-commissioned officer of a U.S. military branch.

The19th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force will be JoAnne Bass, currently the command chief master sergeant for the Second Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, the service announced Friday. She will replace Kaleth O. Wright, who came into the role in 2017.

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Airmen "are counting on leaders like me to make a positive impact in their lives," Bass said in a video posted by Wright on social media. "I owe them my best."

Wright also hailed Air Force Chief of Staff. Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown, who earlier this month was confirmed in a historic Senate vote as the first African American to ever serve as the top uniformed officer for any of the military branches.

"Gen. Brown knocked it out of the park with this selection," Wright said on Twitter. "Proud moment in history, Great to be an Airman!"

"She has unique skills that will help us both lead the Total Force and live up to the high expectations of our Airmen," Brown said in a statement about Bass. "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."

Bass previously served as chief for the Air Force enlisted developmental education program at the Pentagon, according to her official biography. She has also deployed in support of Operations Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. She began her career in 1993 at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina and later served at Ramstein Air Base, Germany; and at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, as the the command chief master sergeant for the 17th Training Wing, her bio states.

Air Force officials said Bass emerged as "the consensus choice from a group of more than a dozen finalists from across the Air Force's global operation," according to a news release. "The finalists were selected based on breadth of experience, recommendations from senior commanders and performance across each candidate's Air Force career."

Officials noted Brown and Bass are coming into a service in transition, not only as the military charts its course to take on new, future threats, but also as it addresses racial disparities across the force.

The Air Force has been outspoken on social issues and has made a number of moves of late to promote a culture of inclusivity and affirm Air Force values.

Wright was the first member of senior military leadership to speak out publicly following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis.

Wright also cited concern black members of the Air Force, and a call for change and improvement in the service, including a review of the military justice system.

The Air Force has since initiated that review.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

Related: It's Official: Gen. CQ Brown Confirmed as 1st African American Military Service Chief

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