Is a day in the life of Air Force Chief Master Sergeant everything you thought it would be? Chief Staff Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass asked me at the end of her visit to Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.


My simple answer to his question was, “That and more.”


The Air Force Chief Master Sergeant represents the highest level of enlisted leadership, and I had the unique opportunity to observe Bass’ visit to Robins on April 28-29. As an Airman with the 78th Controller Squadron, I was thrilled to have the chance to see what CMSAF and their team are doing for our Air Force mission.


At 8 p.m. on April 28, Bass and Team 19 arrived on base. I stood anxiously in the flight line waiting for the chance to meet the Air Force’s first female Chief Master Sergeant. Before I could meet her, however, I was introduced to the rest of Team 19, which included: Chief Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Perry, Air Force First Sergeant Special Duty Manager, Chief Master Sgt. Megan Parrot, Special Assistant Executive at CMSAF, and Senior Master Sgt. Laura Griswold, CMSAF Events Coordinator. They all greeted me with handshakes and smiles.


Shortly after, Bass approached me.


“How are you, Staff Sergeant?” McWilliams? she said enthusiastically.



“I’m very well, ma’am,” I said. “I will follow you and your team to create a ‘day in the life’ story.”

“So that means you’ll be doing a PT with us at 0445 tomorrow morning?” ” she asked. “If you want to capture ‘a day in the life’, you have to capture the ENTIRE day.”


“Yes ma’am. I’ll be there,” I said, laughing.


“We are going to do a 10 mile race! Perry said jokingly as we boarded the surrey to drop them off for the night.


At 5 a.m. the next morning, I met Team 19 in the fitness center. I asked Bass how important a good morning workout was, especially with such a busy day.


“How I start my mornings is very important, and PT is a big part of that. Also, how hypocritical would I be if I didn’t do PT? I have to set the Airman a good example” , she replied.


About an hour later, we gathered in the hall and took a post-workout selfie.


At 7 a.m. we were heading to 78th Air Base Wing Headquarters where Bass met with key enlisted mission partners around Robins, including Air Force Reserve Command, 461st and 116th Air Force Wings. air control, the 5th combat communications group.


After the hour-long meeting, we took a short walk to the base theater for one of two calls Bass had on his itinerary. As we walked in, I could feel the excitement of the crowd, and they immediately burst into applause after she was introduced.


After acknowledging five outstanding performers, she addressed the crowd and made sure to recognize as many career fields as possible, thanking them for what they do.


During his remarks, Bass talked about “Accelerate Change or Lose” and encouraged everyone to learn about the strategic approach, developed by Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q Brown, Jr.


Other areas of focus include pacing our adversaries, building resilient Airmen, and improving our Airmen’s quality of life and talent management processes.


“People don’t quit their jobs,” she told the crowd. “They left their bosses. Airmen need to feel valued. We need to create an environment where Airmen feel respected, valued and heard. We need to make sure Airmen know they matter.”


Throughout the call, I observed the room and constantly saw Airmen nodding in agreement and engaging with every word she said.


After his closing remarks, Bass then opened the floor for questions. To my surprise, the crowd seemed hesitant.


“Don’t be shy now, you all have a lot of opinions online,” Bass said with a laugh. “I know you all have something to say. Let’s listen to this.”


It seemed to break the ice as the crowd laughed and the questions started pouring in. I watched Bass listen carefully to each question and answer them sincerely.


Some of the most popular questions included: shaving waivers, racial diversity/disparity, and retention rates. All of these questions generated great conversation, but the question that stood out to me was from an Airman who expressed concerns about his family.


“For those of us with children, how can we help them adjust to the move?” she asked. “How do I explain this to them? What are your advices ? The Airman began to get emotional as she finished her question.


Bass provided her with some encouraging words and offered to speak to her after the all-call.


“I always say our families sacrifice the most when it comes to the military,” Bass said. “Everyone always talks about us as members, but it’s really our families that make the biggest sacrifices. One piece of advice I suggest is to always include your family in your plans. If you have a (permanent station change) coming up, try to include them and ask them what they think of the move. We can talk about it more offline.”


After roll call, I watched the airmen line up to take pictures with Bass. She greeted everyone by name, then posed for each photo with her signature hand gesture. I noticed several Airmen excitedly calling their spouses, family and friends to let them know they had just taken a photo with CMSAF.


After the photo shoot, I saw Bass talking with the airman from earlier. As busy as her schedule was, she still took the time to comfort and reassure.


At the end of all this, it was still only 9:45 and there was still a good part of the day. We headed to Air Force Reserve Command Headquarters, where Bass met more experienced enlisted leaders and recognized several outstanding performers.


Once done, our next stop was the Total Force lunch at the Winn Dining Facility. Bass ate lunch and spent time talking to 25 Airmen, learning about their mission and listening to their concerns.


We were in the middle of a very busy day and Bass showed no signs of fatigue. She was still very lively and ready for her next speaking engagement, which was the Air Force Reserve Command’s roll call.


During the AFRC call, Bass brought the same level of intensity and enthusiasm she had earlier in the morning. She never missed an opportunity to chat with the airmen and made sure everyone left with a photo.


Our last stop of the day was a visit to Staff Sgt. Felicia Rivers Airman Leadership School Class 22-D where Bass met the future leaders of the Air Force.


During the Q&A portion, an airman asked Bass a great question, but in an interesting way.


“I have a three-part question, ma’am,” he said. “How long have you been in the Air Force?


“Twenty-nine,” she replied.


“Is it true that a general earns more than the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force? He asked.


“Yes,” she answered.


“So knowing that a general earns more than you, what made it possible for you to enlist and serve in the military for so long?” he followed.



Bass laughed and simply said, “People. Caring for people is what keeps me going. Anyone who has served this long will tell you that is why they continue to serve. If I was here to be rich, I would have left the army a long time ago.

After all that, we reached the end of the day and his visit around 4 p.m. As we made our way to the flight line, Bass finally had time to reflect and relax after a long day. She chatted and shared a few laughs with her team before engaging in a brief conversation with me.


“Staff Sgt. McWilliams, is a day in the life of Air Force Chief Master Sgt. all you thought it would be?” she asked curiously.


“Yes, ma’am,” I replied. “It’s everything I imagined and more. Thanks for the opportunity. I don’t know how you do this day in and day out.”


She and I said goodbye, then took one last selfie before she and Team 19 departed for Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.


Besides seeing how she was the busiest woman in the Air Force, what I take away the most from my time with Bass and Team 19 is that everyone matters. No matter your rank, your job, whether you are military or civilian, everyone is important. She really cares about people and I saw that during our time together, both in her actions and her words.



Editor’s Note: Staff Sgt. Terrell McWilliams is the NCO in charge of the commander’s support staff for the 78th Controller Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. He serves as the liaison between the commander, first sergeant, and director, providing direct administrative support to the staff agencies of the 78th CPTS and 78th Air Base Wing.