Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass presented keynote remarks at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference, at National Harbor Sept. 20.
“What remains a constant in my mind is, where we are today, where we need to be tomorrow, and what are the things we must do now to be prepared to answer our nation’s call … anytime, anywhere,” Bass said. “We are indeed at that inflection point in history, where the choices we make today will have lasting impacts on the world we have tomorrow.”
Bass also mentioned the challenges posed by America’s near-peer competitors.
“While on this amazing Air Force journey, I have learned that service in our Air Force is also more like running a marathon than a sprint,” she said. “We need our Airmen serving today to think in those terms, because there are forces in this world that also believe they are in a marathon. China is one of them.”
She detailed the threat of the Chinese Communist Party’s desire to expand their sphere of influence, and explained the need for Airmen to prepare and think long term.
“Whether it’s China, or any other strategic competitor … I need every single Airman to understand that future conflict will never look like it has in the past,” Bass said. “It will span across multiple domains, using any and all advantages and tactics on both military and non-military targets. The high-end fight that we must prepare for could be unlike anything we have ever faced in our history, and will require us to accelerate the change we need today to win tomorrow.”
She highlighted the significance of Brown’s action orders of Accelerate Change or Lose.
“When I speak to our Airmen, I let them know those words cannot simply be buzzwords,” she said.
Bass explained how Air Force leadership needs to clearly define expectations and move out of the way to let their Airmen accomplish the mission.
“One way to help define the expectations we have for our people are the Airman Leadership Qualities that we released this past spring,” Bass said. “They are the roadmap, and the qualities and competencies we expect from our Airmen.”
She said these qualities — executing the mission, leading people, managing resources and improving the unit—are being built into the feedback used to develop Airmen, and that Airmen are already leveraging these leadership qualities to accomplish the mission.
“From our Air National Guard firefighters, battling the California wildfires, to our (Tactical Air Control Party specialists) leveraging innovation and technology to provide real-world, real-time information to those firefighters on the front line,” Bass said. “Our teamwork remains unmatched.”
Bass also mentioned the recent accomplishments of Airmen providing aid and support to refugees from Afghanistan.
“Just a few weeks ago, in Afghanistan, it was our Airmen who stepped up to transport, and deliver hope to more than 120,000 vulnerable Afghans,” Bass said. “The adaptability, agility and readiness of our active duty and reserve Airmen led to nine newborns being delivered on board (C-17 Globemaster IIIs). It was our Airmen and their families around the globe that showed incredible resiliency, by providing shelter, safety, and a chance at a better life to these Afghan families, while modeling humanity and what right looks like.”
She said she is continually impressed by seeing Airmen innovate and overcome adversity.
“It’s our Airmen that inspire me when I think about the future of our force,” Bass said. “The Air Force of 2030 will not be built in the Pentagon—it is being built in our squadrons, and our work centers. It is being built by you, inspiring your people to enhance your readiness and create a culture that values diversity, inclusion and respect. It’s up to you to build the Air Force we need. It’s up to us, at the Pentagon, to help support you.”