When you walk through the halls of The Pentagon, you can see photos of many important figures in the United States Armed Forces. As you walk up the hallway of a section devoted to the Air Force, there is a section devoted to all the former Chief Master Sergeants of the Air Force. Nineteen people are on that wall, including the current chief, JoAnne Bass. Her photo stands out on that wall because she is the only woman and the only Asian American. She is honored to have broken those barriers, but she’s looking forward to seeing who the “second person” may be to hold that position.

“It’s an honor to be the first, but it will be even more exciting when we can stop counting. So, my message to that second person is ‘lead well. Do your job and do it well.’ If that happens, there will be a third and fourth, and we don’t have to worry about counting.”

Bass understands the responsibility that comes with her title. As Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Bass leads many heroic Americans and strives to do so by example – whether she is meeting with a group of many or only one. She strives to show her Airmen that she holds herself to the highest of standards possible, including when it comes to being in top shape. She is aware that each day provides unique opportunities to inspire and impact others in and out of service.

Air Force JoAnne Bass in a meeting with other military personnel
Airman 1st Class Katelynn Jackson

“It is a part of our battle rhythm weekly, every day. I would offer that we are serious about starting our days off with PT so that we can get the physical fitness piece in because we know that if our bodies feel good, our minds feel good, the rest of the day will be as well, especially when we’re on the road. We’ll still get it in at 4:30 or five in the morning.”

Like many kids and teenagers, Bass was active during her childhood, taking part in soccer and softball, but her passion for being in her best shape came after she was sworn into service by her father 31 years ago. While training and being in shape was required during her basic training days, it evolved into becoming a regular part of her lifestyle as her career progressed. She advises young Americans today that they should commit to fit as soon as possible because it can serve them well later in life, regardless of what they choose to do as adults. She acknowledged that her diet of Oreos and grape soda during her teenage years wasn’t the healthiest of choices to make.

Bass shared, “If I could rewind time, I would’ve started earlier. It goes back to understanding the value of holistically taking care of yourself.” Throughout her career, she figured out that motivation can only go so far, that is why she needed to create a routine to stay disciplined, which has been advise she offers to those that are looking to make changes in their own fitness fortunes.

“I am a creature of habit. If I lack discipline, then I am reactive the rest of the day,” she explained. “What I’ve learned is that when you discipline yourself to make physical fitness the first thing you do in the morning, while it may not be all that enjoyable waking up to get it done, I’ve never felt bad afterward.”

That discipline serves all members of the Armed Forces well because there is a great chance that they will face some form of adversity that will challenge them. There are even times that life and service will knock them down. Bass feels that discipline and resilience can help shape you into becoming the best version of yourself possible so you can be ready to face those challenges. She shared that the Air Force really focuses on this with a model called “Comprehensive Airmen Fitness,” which includes four pillars – physical, social, spiritual, and mental. While their specific program was designed for Airmen, its philosophy, spread across the Spectrum of Resilience, that can serve any person looking to positively improve their quality of life.

“If I can focus on nutrition, sleeping better, mental health, and the spiritual piece of me, it will build up my resilience. Everybody really needs to spend time being deliberate about their own resiliency model and developing it before crisis hits. Focusing on those things can help you be a better person on the back end.”

Bass assumed her current position in 2020 and is preparing to transition to the next phase of her career and life. The 20th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force will take her place within a matter of weeks, but she looks back fondly at her time at the helm. She hopes young Americans will see that even though they may not think of the military as a lifetime option now, many opportunities can be possible just by starting out in service.

“I didn’t set out to make the military my life, per se. It started off as a way to get my G.I. Bill and figure things out. At the four-year mark, I only re-enlisted to pay off my Honda Civic,” she shared. “After the eight-year mark, I really learned what it meant to wear our nation’s cloth.”

Bass knows that the next generation of Americans have many options to consider after they are ready to step out on their own. She hopes to see many of them take the step of joining the Armed Forces because aside from the importance of being fit, she knows firsthand how beneficial being a part of the one percent of Americans from all walks of life that protect freedom.

“It will give you an understanding of work ethics, standards, discipline, and it just makes you a better human being. The military has given me far more than I’ve given it so when you go back to your hometown, you can continue doing great things.”

Follow Bass on Instagram @cmsaf_official.