A day in the life - CMSAF Bass visits Incirlik Air Base

  • Published
  • By Staff Sergeant Gabrielle Winn
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

When I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime to meet Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass, the first female CMSAF and 19th overall, there was no way that I could pass it up!

I had a chance to meet Team #19 on their long-awaited visit to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey and the 39th Air Base Wing. Not only was I getting the inside scoop on what a day in the life of the CMSAF consisted of, she also fit me into her busy schedule to have a one-on-one interview in, of all places, … my car!

Upon her arrival, I waited anxiously on the flightline. I was eager to meet her and her team as her jet made it to its landing spot. I quickly snapped pictures, trying my best to capture the moment as she warmly greeted the welcome committee. As we made our way to the surrey, I was reminded that we were about to have a jam-packed day.

After a quick break, our first destination was the base movie theater for an all-call. The Titan community greeted her with enthusiasm and in return, she expressed her enthusiasm to speak with us. As she talked about her experiences in the Air Force, goals for the future and how she’s been working on current issues, she kept the conversation open for discussion and answered questions from the crowd. Whenever a hard-hitting question was asked, she answered with a quick, “You know I’m going to keep it real,” and a thoroughly crafted response would follow.

From her attentiveness in listening to the crowd’s questions and concerns, I could tell that she was really taking in the information presented to her and ready to make a change. After the all-call concluded, the crowd lined up with their phones in hand to snap a coveted selfie with her.

Once the all-call was over, we traveled to the Titan’s Refuge where she toured the facility, met with Airmen and recognized an outstanding performer. While we were there, I could feel my nervousness set in as I was preparing to do an exclusive interview with Bass. As a public affairs specialist, I’ve done many interviews with high-ranking individuals before, but nothing could compare to what was about to happen.

While getting reassurance from my peers and leadership to calm my nerves, we set up our cameras in my car and made sure our coffee – she really likes her coffee – ready for a trip around base.

“Are you ready to go SSgt Winn?,” she asked as I attached a microphone to her uniform top. I gave her a quick, but nervous, “Yes, Ma’am,” and we were ready to go.

After the preparation was complete, we were off for the next 15 minutes with nothing but coffee and an engaging conversation. We touched on the topics of mentorship, leadership and our personal and professional goals for 2023. Her personable demeanor and well-spoken answers made it easy to see that she takes pride in her role as the CMSAF and how deeply she cares for the well-being, success and progression of all Airmen in the force.

Once my last interview question was answered, I couldn’t express the tremendous feeling of accomplishment I had knowing how well everything went. 

We ended our interview just in time for her next stop, the 39th Security Forces Squadron, where she met with our hard-charging defenders. She expressed how proud she was of the team, coined an Airman for his outstanding performance and gave some insight on the ways we can all work to make the Air Force better.

Just as I thought our long, eventful day was coming to an end, we hopped back on the surrey and made an unscheduled detour to crash the 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s holiday party at the Consolidated Club. Not to my surprise, Bass was welcomed with a loud roar of cheering, and shock, as she was handed the microphone to give some remarks. Of course, the crowd gathered around to take selfies and document the CMSAF’s surprise visit.

After a full day of travel and meeting with Team Titan’s finest, we finally made it to dinner with the Chief’s Group. As we sat and made small talk, we all wondered the same thing; one chief was brave enough to ask, “How do you do it? How do you keep up the energy with traveling and work?”

Bass’ answer was simply, “It’s great to have a battle buddy like Diamond One (Chief Master Sgt. Nathaniel Perry) around. He knows when I’m getting tapped out, and it’s all about energy management.”

She then passed on some lessons she’d learned on the importance of being there for your people, but also making time for yourself and family. I admired what she said as those same virtues show in the work she does.

The night ended and Team #19 prepared for their 0630 departure the following morning. One day of shadowing the CMSAF and I was beat. I couldn’t imagine going on a world tour and engaging with Airmen on a regular basis, but as she said, it’s all about energy management.

The next day started early, but the team was ready to take on the task of traveling to their next destination. We arrived at the flightline where Bass said her last goodbye to the 39th Operations Support Squadron and the protocol team that made it all possible.

After the team headed onto the jet, we watched as the aircraft departed while feeling a sense of pride that we just executed a successful short-notice senior leader visit.

Bass and her team’s schedule might make them some of the busiest people in the Air Force, but I learned so much throughout her short time visiting the 39th ABW. My main takeaway from Bass’ visit was the importance of showing up for your Airmen no matter how difficult it might be. Listening and taking their concerns into consideration goes a long way, having a good wingman and energy management can pull you through the hardest of times.

But the most important lesson I learned from CMSAF was you have “got to keep it real.”