VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Chief Master Sgt. William "DJ" Jones succeeded Chief Master Sgt. Ryan Peterson as 30th Space Wing Command Chief just a few weeks ago, but has already gotten his feet wet by attending public facing events and taking care of the daily command chief responsibilities at Vandenberg. Jones eagerly answered a few questions for 30th Space Wing Public Affairs about his vision, his inspirations and goals as the highest enlisted leader for Team V.
Q: What's your hometown?
I was born in a very small town in east Tennessee called Etowah - population 3,400 citizens - but I lived in a neighboring town called Sweetwater. When I was 14-years-old, my sisters and I moved to Dalton, Georgia, the place I call home today.
A: What is your favorite sport and sports team?
I call Georgia home so I'm an Atlanta Falcons and an Atlanta Braves fan. But I was born in Tennessee so I'm a Tennessee Volunteer football fan. I'm hoping they all have a good season this year.
Q: Who was your biggest influence or mentor?
A: That's a tough question because I've been influenced by so many great leaders that I try to emulate. So, I'll quickly name a few: Master Sgt. Gerry Woo, my first superintendent, taught me the importance of getting involved in the unit and on the base. Master Sgt. Mark Kruis, my Airman Leadership School commandant when I was an instructor, taught me the importance of teamwork. Finally, Col. Michael Harasimowicz, my previous commander, taught me the importance of balancing work and time with the family. Again, these are just a few of the hundreds of great Air Force leaders who have left their impressions on me.
Q: Do you have a hobby? If so, what is it?
A: About eight years ago I bought my first classic car - a 1957 Chevy pick-up. I loved that truck but sold it when I PCS'd to Korea. A year later I bought a 1969 Chevy Camaro and spent a lot of time working on it. After I took the car to San Antonio, a man made me an offer I couldn't refuse so I sold it too. I now have a 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme convertible. I really enjoy taking something and making it better so on most weekends you'll find me working on the car.
Q: What excites you about stepping into the job of Vandenberg's command chief?
A: Everything - the mission, the people, the location, the weather. I think the most anyone can hope for is to make a contribution to the team's success - to feel relevant. I'm excited about being given an opportunity to have a relevant impact on the great men and women in the 30th Space Wing.
Q: How do you think that your experience as a cyberspace command chief will help lead space wing Airmen?
A: I think you can draw some comparisons between the two mission sets of cyber and space launch. Both are critical to our nation's defense and both require extremely smart, innovative Airmen to be successful. They also both require bold leaders that listen to the experts which so often are the enlisted, officer, civilian or contractors that are closest to the keyboard or launch pad. I hope to be just such a leader. Also, because I'm coming from another wing within Air Force Space Command, I already have a relationship with our current Air Force Space Command and 14th Air Force Command Chiefs. We've worked together for several years now and I know our professional and personal relationship will continue to benefit the members of the 30th Space Wing.
Q What was the best advice you've ever gotten and who gave it to you?
A: Easy question! I'm not sure I would call it advice so much as leadership by example but my grandfather had the biggest influence on me. I lived with him and my grandmother until I was 14-years-old. He served in the Army when he was younger and, according to my grandmother, landed on Normandy Beach on 6 June, 1944 - D-Day. During my entire life with him, I saw him walk with a limp. He had hundreds of pieces of shrapnel in his legs - so many pieces the doctors could not remove them - yet I don't recall ever hearing him complain. He woke up early every day, worked hard from sun up to sun set, and earned an honest living. When he wasn't working he was worshipping in the local church. He sacrificed for his country and was a great American. I try to be like him and do things to make him proud.
Q: What can we expect from you as command chief?
A: To be effective in this capacity and do my best work, I must be available, accessible and approachable. So my goal is to make myself available and accessible to every person on Vandenberg that needs assistance or just wants to share their story. And I'd love to think I'm a very approachable person all ready. I think you're going to see a lot of me in the coming months but I'm simply trying to contribute to the team's success.
Q: Do you have any ideas yet on how you might enhance the quality of life for Airmen at Vandenberg?
A: One of President Lincoln's leadership principles was to lead by walking around and discovering issues that affect an individual's ability to perform their best. No one can lead effectively just sitting behind their desk. I've only been in the seat for about a week now but I've already visited the dormitories, dining facility, fitness center, lodging, a space launch complex, the WROCC and several other work centers. I spent time on the front gate with our Defenders checking ID's and plan to work with as many Airmen as I can over the next 2 years. My goal is to find barriers that prevent us from being our best and do everything I can to remove them. So, ask me this same question in 3 months. If I don't have a good answer for you, I should be packing my desk.
Q: What do you think the biggest challenge today's Airmen face?
A: This is a great time to be an Airmen but it's also probably the toughest time in my 26-year career. Before I left San Antonio, I had lunch with Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (ret) Bob Gaylor who said when he was an Airman there were more members in the duty section than there were chairs to sit in. When I joined the Air Force in December, 1987, there were over 600,000 active duty enlisted Airmen. Today there are approximately 262,000 active duty enlisted members. I heard another chief say we've become more efficient but less effective. I think the biggest challenge facing today's Airman is the ability to remain focused on what they can control and not get too distracted by the things they cannot control. We can control how well we do our work, how motivated we are, how energetic we are, and how involved we are in the unit, base and local community. We cannot control the budget or which airframes will be retired. Let's try our best to focus on making the 30th Space Wing the best wing in the United States Air Force and have faith that our senior leaders are doing all they can for the good of the force.
Q: What does it take to be a good Airman in today's Air Force?
A: Too easy. To be successful in today's Air Force, it takes exactly the same thing it took in every generation of Airmen since 1947. Certainly, we will not be successful without embodying the core values. It all starts there. But we must also be self-starters, professional, eager to learn, motivated to serve, ready when called upon, and willing to adapt to change. I think these same traits were needed during the Berlin Airlift, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Cold War, Desert Storm and every other campaign we've enabled. The qualities needed to be a good Airman don't change from year to year or generation to generation.
Q: Why should young people still consider a career in the Air Force in light of all that's going on in the world today?
A: I should have been a recruiter! To this day I still speak at my high school occasionally and encourage young people to join. But we know the Air Force certainly isn't for everyone. Having just left Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland where I was stationed for the past 2 years, I had the privilege of attending many Basic Military Training parades. I saw the pride in the faces of our newest Airmen and on the faces of the moms and dads there to watch their son or daughter march down the bomb run. Even for a 26-year CMSgt it was very emotional every time. The Air Force has so much to offer - education, travel, support programs, housing, clothing, competitive pay and allowances - the list is endless. But the biggest reason people should consider joining the Air Force is for the life-altering experience that comes with serving your country. Microsoft and Google can't give you that experience.
Q: Did you ever think you'd achieve the highest enlisted rank in the Air Force? Also, what qualities do you think an Airman needs to become a chief?
A: I heard a chief master sergeant answer this same question once and I was surprised by his answer. He said he never dreamed he'd be a chief master sergeant. Not me! From the first time I saw a chief master sergeant I knew I wanted to wear all those stripes and have the biggest positive influence I could have on an organization. I worked hard and took advantage of every opportunity given to me by my supervisors. Every time I was fortunate enough to get promoted, I quietly set my sights on the next one while doing the best I could at my current rank. I don't think any promotion in the United States Air Force comes easy. Certainly none of them came easily for me. I worked extremely hard and felt I deserved every promotion. Then came the tough challenge of proving I was ready.
In order to become a chief, I think an Airman must possess a strong desire to serve others. I strongly believe in servant leadership and would like to think my supervisors and commanders recognized that quality. They, in turn, documented in my performance annually and submitted me for various awards and decorations. These accolades were later reviewed by the promotion board and greatly impacted my chances for promotion to chief master sergeant. I'd like to think the Air Force rarely promotes anyone to chief master sergeant that doesn't have a strong desire to serve others.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
A: Sure. I'd like to thank Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, again for the awesome opportunity to have an impact on the men and women of the 30th Space Wing. I'm willing to bet I'm the most excited person on Vandenberg and will be for months to come and I look forward to serving the Airmen in this great wing.