A chief's reflection

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Jerome Baker
  • 49th Mission Support Group superintendant
Dec. 1 marked the 50th anniversary of the chief master sergeant rank. I offer my congratulations to the Air Force.

Holloman Air Force Base celebrated this momentous occasion by recognizing five former chiefs who were instrumental in making the rank of chief the most respected and prestigious in our Air Force today. Even today, only one percent of the enlisted force, at any given time, reaches this esteemed status.

Starting from a pool of about 58,000 Airmen, the first chief master sergeant promotion cycle elevated 625 Airmen to this new rank. These first chiefs became known as the Charter Chiefs.

The Charter Chiefs served with professionalism, excellence, pride and dignity, while establishing the highest standards of leadership. They also forged the ground rules for chief master sergeants of today and those to come in the future.

I was promoted to chief master sergeant July 1, 2004, and it was a long, earned and distinguished journey crafted in part by the fantastic leaders in my life. Early on, they told me if I worked hard, mastered my duties and most importantly, took care of my Airmen ... I would arrive.

When thinking about the people who made a lasting impression on my career, I'm reminded mostly of my first supervisor and trainer when I entered the Air Force.

As an Airman, I was afforded the opportunity to experience what I like to call a noncommissioned officer tag team, Staff Sgt. Catherine "Rocky" Shaw and Tech. Sgt. Randal Brooks. These two individuals were outstanding mentors and leaders who are directly responsible for where I am today. Sergeant Shaw, now a retired chief master sergeant, was my direct supervisor and Sergeant Brooks, now a retired master sergeant, was my first trainer.

As I look back, I think of them as a good cop, bad cop supervisor team. Sergeant Shaw was the mentor and team builder. She knew me personally and professionally and served as a role model for my career development.

Sergeant Brooks, on the other hand, was more of the "father figure." He was more direct and in-your-face when it came to on-the-job training and making sure I knew the job well enough to take his place if he wasn't there.

From day one, this dynamic duo pushed me with a purpose -- setting me up for success. They always provided me what I considered at that time, unsolicited advice. However, when I look back and think about what their leadership and advice brought to me personally and to my career, I think about senior airman below-the-zone, multiple quarterly awards to include wing level and higher headquarters, multiple professional military education school awards and, ultimately, a timely promotion to the rank of chief master sergeant. Both Sergeant Shaw and Sergeant Brooks, in their own way, were inspirational and motivational leaders who made a difference in this Airmen's career.

So the question, now that I've made it to the top enlisted grade and one percent of the entire enlisted corps, is have I made a difference in the same way Sergeant Shaw and Sergeant Brooks did? Have I made a difference in the way our Charter Chiefs made a difference 50 years ago? Have I continued to pave the way for Air Force future leaders? Have I served with honor and distinction leaving a legacy worth emulation?

I can't answer these questions myself, but as I wake and embark upon my continued journey every day, I'm excited when I see the caliber of the enlisted leaders the Air Force is developing to replace us. I can only hope I played a role in their success.

Again, I congratulate the Air Force on the 50th anniversary of the chief master sergeant rank. Words alone cannot explain what an awesome privilege and responsibility it is to carry the name "chief" in today's Air Force.