NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (AFNS) —
Culture, goals and vision were the resonating themes covered by Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass during her ‘Airmen of the Future’ keynote at the 2023 Air and Space Forces Association’s Air, Space, and Cyber Conference Sept. 13.
As the Air Force’s top enlisted leader, Bass expressed her gratitude for all the hard-working Airmen who continue to answer their nation’s call and project superior airpower throughout the globe.
These accomplishments include nearly 800,000 aircraft sorties totaling almost two million hours, transporting more than 700,000 passengers and 300,000 tons of cargo, and passing nearly 500,000 pounds of fuel. She added, “We’ve had a hand in eight major humanitarian efforts, more than 20 named operations and 100 major exercises.”
Bass also stressed the need to keep up the momentum in meeting the challenges the Department of Defense faces in the Pacific region.
“The future force requires Airmen at all levels to look at the Air Force we have today and ask ourselves, ‘While [our Air Force] got us here, will it get us there?’” she said.
Bass explained it is the service’s professionalized force that adversaries covet – and specifically, that force’s ability to build teams, operate and survive in all domains. She stressed these capabilities cannot be overlooked and require constant improvement to remain the world’s greatest Air Force.
Adversaries such as China “aim to sow discord, erode trust and destabilize nations through the spread of disinformation,” Bass said while remarking on the use of artificial intelligence in today’s digital world. “Our adversaries understand the power of information – they seek to exploit it, weaponize it and use it against us.”
She later added AI should not be avoided, but offered instead that Airmen need to be educated about its capabilities and the effects of “using these platforms and being used by them.”
Turning her attention to the “Airmen of the Future,” she explained the Air Force requires a focus beyond just the physical domains of air, land, and sea.
“To get us there, the force needs Airmen who think critically, challenge the status quo and adapt and evolve to stay ahead,” she said.
Bass noted examples of Airmen she met during her travels who are already showing the qualities of what the Air Force’s future enlisted force needs.
“We share similar stories, we share similar challenges, and every one of us passed through the same gateway together and raised our right hands to support and defend this nation,” Bass said. “We must all explore new ideas and embrace innovation – and we must all move forward, together.”
“Our Air Force is a family business, and these Airmen, among countless others, represent the amazing talent that belongs in our Air Force,” she said. “As Airmen, we can never forget our nation is counting on us.”
During an emotional closing, Bass reflected on four things she loves in life: her faith, family, country and the Air Force, before leaving Airmen with a closing thought.
“Our Air Force is in your hands,” Bass said. “The oath we take is selfless. This is more than just a job; this is our profession, and it is our higher calling. Every one of us is building a future full of hope…You belong in our Air Force.”